The cold has arrived. Just like your pet needs certain concessions when Jack Frost visits, so does your car. We’ve rounded up our top cold weather tips and got some additional advice from Richard Reina, Director of Product Training at the online auto parts portal CALiD.com.
Cold weather work falls into two categories: car care and personal safety. Both are important and mostly change the winter driving experience. We start with personal safety as it helps you and your vehicle get through the season.
change to winter tires
Read more: Best snow tires for winter 2022 and 2023
Every knowledgeable source we know recommends winter tires, and YouTube says that winter tires perform better than all-season tires in snow and ice. There are many videos showing Acceleration, steering and braking are improved with winter tires.
I know I paid extra for all wheel drive so I could avoid this step. But AWD is half the winter driving equation. Richard Reyna said, “Those of his AWD drivetrains may improve traction, but they don’t offer any help with steering or braking on slippery surfaces.” This means AWD can send power to the wheels with the most grip. AWD is useless if the tires don’t grip.
Winter tires use a rubber compound formulated to withstand hardening in sub-zero temperatures, maintaining resilience and grip when everything outside gets stiff and slippery like an all-season tire. Their tread pattern is designed to clear snow and slush.
Whatever tires your car has, make sure they have enough tread and are inflated to the proper pressure. It’s a tip all year round, not just in winter.
winter wiper and washer fluid
Read more: How to change wiper blades and washer fluid
Windshield wipers are made of rubber, just like tires. Leaving a muddy streak on the windshield each time the blade moves is annoying and potentially dangerous.
Keep an extra set of blades in your car (ideally) or at home. Blades should be replaced every 6-12 months. You don’t want to wait until the freezing rain starts to find out you need new wipers. Just ask any auto parts store employee – that’s when the stampede starts.Reina recommends Bosch blades like her Snow Driver and says, ‘BArm style braids tend to do better in winter. Its design makes it difficult for snow and ice to accumulate. ” The Rain-X Latitude blade “introduces water repellency and does a better job of driving moisture out of the glass than other blades” and does not feature a traditional metal frame that can freeze. For a budget option, try the All-Season Aero Blade with a 6-month money-back guarantee.
And a reminder from Reina, “Don’t forget the rear wiper for wagons and SUVs.”
While you’re at the auto parts store, spend a few extra bucks to buy a few bottles of washer fluid to keep your car’s fluid reservoir full.
Stock up on your winter safety bundle
It wasn’t 12 months ago that I was sitting on the side of the highway in my Corvette after a snowstorm. Not only did I break the unwritten rule of having the wrong car on the drive, I also broke the rule I just wrote about having snow tires. The car had no safety and he had only a quarter tank of petrol. My plan—the only one available—was for him to sleep 36 hours in a 2-seater, running the engine intermittently until the weather was warm enough to melt the ice on the roads.
don’t be like me
Pack a small duffel with enough items to keep two people safe in the car for 48 hours. Essentials include a blanket or sleeping bag, a hat and gloves, an energy bar, canned food and a can opener, a first aid kit, and a cell phone charger. Water is always a good idea, but only fill the container halfway. Space must be left for the frozen water to expand. Do not use a thermos. Freeze frozen water. Add flares, triangular reflectors, safety vests, and folding shovels to complete the prep. If you have an older car with mechanical locks, glycerin deicer isn’t a bad idea as long as you can store it outside the car.
An ice scraper with a brush should always be available. Polish your headlights, taillights and roof too! You should always carry a jumper cable, a flashlight, a spare fuse, a small funnel, a tire pressure gauge, and a spare key hidden outside your car at all times of the year.
These are personal safety tips. Grip and good visibility can be a matter of life and death all year round, but especially in winter. Here are some car care tips.
check the battery
A car’s 12-volt battery reaches maximum output when the ambient temperature is around 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Just like the battery in an electric car, as the temperature rises, the output decreases, so the battery works harder in the winter to start the car. Test your battery to make sure it’s outputting the right voltage while cranking and idling. Also, if the terminals are corroded, take 5 minutes to clean the terminals.
Change to lighter engine oil
Read more: How to change engine oil and filter
The oil thickens in the cold and the battery has to work harder to start the car. Thick oil also takes longer to get to the places it needs to be protected, and most engine wear occurs at start-up. Refer to your owner’s manual for which oil to use in which temperature range. Some manuals recommend going lighter in cold weather.
If you’re on a diesel and you’re a 15W-40 user, even if you’re using a block heater, the engine will replace it with light oil. Make sure the differential and transfer case are filled with the recommended oil.
While reading the manual, also check the coolant recommendations.
wash the car
Unless you live where it doesn’t snow or where snowplows use sand instead of salt, wash and wax your car before the winter starts, and wash your car regularly during the winter. The combination of water, grit-filled slush and ice, and salt acts like a sandpaper solvent on metal and paint. If you use an automatic car wash, splurge on an undercarriage wash. Your car’s resale value and your bank account will thank you.
Diesel fuel contains paraffin wax. As the mercury drops, the wax begins to solidify, turning the fuel from waxy to cloudy to gel depending on temperature. Because diesel has a higher water content than gasoline, ice crystals can clog fuel filters and water separators, if equipped, in freezing temperatures. Add the fuel additive to the tank before the temperature hits the floor.
Never fill your tank less than a quarter full, whether petrol or diesel.
If you lock your car in the winter, Reina recommends a stabilizer. “Vehicles that have been stored for four to six months will have stale fuel by the time the driving season returns. Using a fuel stabilizer will help prevent the fuel from becoming sticky.”
Read more: Cold weather can wreak havoc on EV range, but these electric vehicles are doing the most
In winter, the range is worse, but it can’t be helped. Use the preconditioning feature while your EV is still plugged in to maximize what your battery can offer. A step as small as treating your windshield with a deicing and defogging treatment can reduce the amount of time you need to use a defroster while traveling. 7 kW battery consumption and boost range.
If you can easily pull into a charging space while running errands, do so even if you have plenty of distance left.EVs can use grid power to keep the battery and interior warm. Also, if you can avoid it, don’t let the battery drop below 20%.