Do You Need Winter Tires?

Not sure whether or not you need winter tires? Consider the typical winter weather conditions in your area and ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you have to drive in icy conditions?
  • Is the snowfall significant or consistent?
  • Do you wait to leave the house until the roads on your route have been cleared?
  • Does your area consistently see temperatures in the low 40’s during?

If you answered ‘yes’ to one or more these questions, snow or winter tires may be a wise investment for your driving safety.

Winter Tires

What Makes Winter Tires Different Than Regular Tires?

Tires designed for winter driving offer superior grip when driving, stopping, and cornering. The tread is designed to bite into snow and ice, while channeling water away from the contact surface. They are also made from softer rubber, which is formulated to stay pliable at freezing temperatures. 

It is important to note that the soft rubber used to make winter tires causes the tire tread to wear faster than all-season tires. For this reason you need to switch back to your all-season tires in the spring, your investment should last for several seasons.  

Now is the Time to Buy!

Fall is the time to shop for new winter tires. Retailers begin to stock the latest models in the fall, so now is when you will find the best selection. If your tire retailer does not have the tires you want in the size you need, retailers can usually order them and install them when they come in. 

Winter tires are usually manufactured during the previous summer, so quantities are often limited. To be sure you’re prepared before winter weather hits, start shopping now. You will also be more likely to get the tires you want for a competitive price. 

Things to Keep in Mind

  • Dependable winter tires have a mountain/snowflake symbol on the sidewall. It assures you that they passed an industry test for severe snow use.
  • Not all winter tires are the same. Make sure you get the right shape and size to suit your vehicle make, model, and year.
  • Know the laws and regulations that specify what is acceptable in your area. For example, some states have minimum tread requirements or do not allow studded winter tires.
  • When comparing prices, be sure to consider the cost of installation. You may see a great deal on a set of winter tires online, but after you factor in installation costs, the deal might not be that great.
  • As with any tire purchase, keep in mind that it is safest and best for your vehicle to buy a full set of four winter tires when possible. 

 

 

The Winter Driving Hazard Most Drivers Don’t Think About

Driving during the winter months can be downright stressful. In our last post, we looked at preventable problems associated with cold weather driving, but, no matter how prepared you may be, slick roads are potentially dangerous for everyone. While road salt provides an effective way to deal with ice on the roads, it also creates an additional winter driving hazard that most people do not even think about.

icy-roads

Road salt exposure throughout the winter season has a punishing effect on the metal components of your vehicle. Most auto designs have an exposed underbody, which means the majority of salt damage occurs underneath the car, where it goes visually undetected. Rust on essential parts of your car can leave you with huge problems ranging from brake system leaks to frame damage. Rubber tires are mostly resistant to salt damage, however, your metal wheels are highly vulnerable to salt damage.

Vehicle manufacturers understand this winter driving issue, so the coatings and paint finishes used in today’s automotive manufacturing do a much better job of providing protection against salt damage. Also working to our advantage is the fact that corrosion and rust do not happen quickly. This means that you have time to undo salt damage potential with regular car washes.

Car Wash

It does not take long for salt and dirty snow to make your car virtually unrecognizable. But washing your vehicle when it’s just going to get dirty again the second you hit the road probably seems like a waste of time and money. On the contrary, regular washes are definitely worth the investment because they are the best way to remove the road salt that is a serious corrosion hazard. 

How frequently should you wash your vehicle? That depends on how much salt and road sludge it is exposed to on a regular basis. If you have really expensive wheels, consider swapping them out during the winter season, since salt is particularly hard on chrome. For extra protection, make it part of your fall routine to wax your vehicle. Waxing in the fall will help make your winter washes more effective.

3 Cold Weather Car Problems You Can Prevent

Depending on where you live, you may be one of the many who must face the potential dangers of driving through winter snow, ice, and sleet. Unfortunately there is not much you can do about winter weather driving, other than proceeding very cautiously and giving yourself extra time to get where you need to go. There are, however some cold weather driving problems that you can take charge of, to protect yourself and your vehicle.

Winter Driving

Cold temperatures can make your vehicle vulnerable to issues beyond what you may encounter on the roadways.The following are three cold weather car problems and how you can prevent them from leaving you stranded:

Problem: Lost Tire Pressure

Tires typically lose 1 pound per square inch (psi) for every 10 degrees of temperature drop.  Under inflated tires do not perform well, plus the tire pressure loss can eventually result in a flat tire. 

Prevention: Be sure to check inflation more frequently as the air gets colder.

Problem: Weak or Dead Batteries

Extremely low temperatures strain your car battery because the chemical reactions needed to make it work happen more slowly. If you already have an old battery, this can cause it to fail even more quickly. 

Prevention: Have the battery tested. Replace it if necessary.

Problem: Thickened Fluids

Freezing temperatures cause thickening of fluids your car needs to run properly, including transmission fluid, brake fluid, power steering fluid, oil, and antifreeze. 

Prevention: Make sure these fluids are maintained at proper levels to avoid trouble.

Even after taking these preventive measures, always be prepared for a road emergency. During the winter months, travel with items in your trunk such as a roadside emergency kit, blankets, gloves, boots, packaged hand warmers, and a folding shovel. 

Stay warm, stay safe, and be prepared!

Tire Pressure: What You Need to Know About the Cold

In the winter, when temperatures start dipping, it is not uncommon to see your tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) light come on more frequently than it normally does. The reason for this lies in the way a TPMS works. 

tire in snow
Tire pressure monitoring systems use sensor technology to detect when tire pressure in one of the tires goes below a predetermined level. If the tire pressure in one or more of your tires drops, the light comes on. Since the environmental air pressure decreases in frigid temperatures, the air pressure in a tire goes down 1-2 pounds for every 10 degrees of temperature change. This is why you will often see the TPMS light more frequently.

Does this mean you can ignore the TPMS light in the winter? While there may be a weather related explanation for the light, it is still important to check your tire pressure, and to check the pressure when the tires are cold. The reason being that once you hit the road, friction will cause the tires to heat up, increasing the pressure within the tire. Checking the tire pressure after you have been driving awhile may give an inaccurate pressure reading.

Proper tire inflation is always important, but it is particularly important in the cold winter months when weather conditions make driving more hazardous. This is because:

  • Low tire pressure can make a vehicle handle poorly
  • Tires tend to wear out much faster when they are not properly inflated
  • Under inflated tires tend to overheat, which could lead to a blowout
  • Low tire pressure reduces gas mileage and costs you money

It is a good idea to check your tire pressure once a month. To obtain the most accurate pressure level, wait about 30 minutes after parking or check the pressure in the morning.

Snow Tires, Winter Tires, All-Season Tires. What’s the Difference?

winter roadDrivers who grew up in the North or Midwest regions of the U.S. are likely to have heard of “snow tires” and are probably familiar with the concept of making the seasonal tire swap. Today, snow tires are increasingly being referred to as “winter tires”. While conceptually the same, the term “winter tires” has become more of a general description than “snow tires”. Winter tires are engineered for all kinds of cold weather conditions, not just snow, so the term “winter tire” more accurately represents the road-gripping capabilities of these tires.

While the name may be a bit misleading, “all-season tires” are not the best choice for winter. Though they do provide good traction for mild conditions, all-season tires fail to offer the ice control, stopping power, and superior traction of winter tires.

Not sure if you need winter tires? 

Think about the weather in your region. Are winter conditions typically snowy or icy? Do you often find yourself waiting to leave until the roads in your area have been cleared? If so, then you probably do want to invest in a quality winter tire that provides superior grip when driving, stopping, and cornering. Winter tires do have the drawback of faster tread wear than all-season tires. Since the tread is designed to grip into snow and ice, and the softer rubber is formulated to stay pliable at freezing temperatures. Be sure to  change back to your all-season tires in the spring, and your winter tires should last for many seasons.

If you decide you do need to invest in winter tires, now is the time to shop for them. Retailers begin to stock the newest models of winter tires in the fall, so you will have the best selection. When shopping for winter tires, keep in mind that they have a mountain/snowflake symbol on the sidewall. It assures you they have passed industry testing for severe snow use.

If your tire retailer does not have the tires you want in the size you need in stock, you can typically order them. If you order in the fall, your retailer will most likely be able to install them, at your convenience, before the winter weather rolls in.

 

Is Warming Up the Car in Winter Necessary?

car-791089_1920In the winter time, getting out of bed and facing the day is just a little bit harder. I, personally, need to take a moment to prepare with a cup of coffee to warm me up. But what about the cold vehicles we are about to climb into to take us where we need to go – don’t they need some warm up time, too? Despite a common misconception, the answer is actually no.

While cars used to require warming up in the days of carburetor fuel systems, today’s cars are equipped with fuel-injection technology, computer systems, and thinner synthetic oils. These new developments make warm ups unnecessary in newer cars.

Instead of warming up your vehicle by letting it idle, try taking it easy as you hit the road.

According to the Car Care Council, warming up, or idling longer that 30 seconds is unnecessary. A better way to warm up an engine is to drive slowly as you begin your trip. As you pull out of your driveway or parking lot, do not gun the engine, instead just take it slow for the first few minutes as you head down the road.

While warming up the car may not do anything for the car mechanically, starting your car before you are ready to go can get the car warmed up for your comfort. Keep in mind, though, warming your car does have some drawbacks. Idling reduces fuel economy and causes excessive wear or stress on engine components, such as cylinders, spark plugs, and the exhaust system. Another reason why warming up is not such a great idea is pollution.  A vehicle that idles for more than 30 seconds increases air pollution.

It is easy to underestimate the impact of one car, but together, we can make a significant reduction in air pollution.

Five Important Cold Weather Car Care Items to Do Now

Cold weather car careAre you ready for the cold? How about your car? Believe it or not, cold weather can have serious effects on your vehicle. Cold weather maintenance involves preventative measures of all sorts.

Here are five important items you should add to your to-do list, to make sure that your car is ready for the cold weather:

  1. Fill your antifreeze: When was the last time you checked or refilled your antifreeze? If it’s been a awhile, then your car could definitely use it.
  2. Check your oil: If your car is due for an oil change, consider refilling it with a lower viscosity oil, which does a better job of handling extreme temperatures. The lower the viscosity, the thinner it is, and the more it will retain its fluidity in cold temperatures.
  3. Stock up on emergency items: Preparing your car for a winter season includes packing some emergency items in your trunk/back seat. Items include: an ice scraper, blanket, first-aid kit, extra clothes, flashlight, jumper cables, and anything else you think you might need in case of emergency. Of course, this is completely out of precaution, but it always helps to be prepared.
  4. Monitor tire pressure: Even the slightest temperature changes can impact tire pressure. Make sure to check the optimal tire pressure on the label of the driver’s side door frame or in your owner’s manual.
  5. Think about new tires: Especially in adverse conditions, car tires are one of the only things keeping you from a major spin out, collision, and other roadside disasters. Chances are if you’ve been thinking about getting new ones, you probably need them.

Before holiday season festivities fill up your schedule, take care of these winter car care items. You will be prepared when the winter weather arrives in full force.

Be Prepared for Dead Car Battery

dead car batteryFall is here and soon the temperatures will be getting colder. Since low temperatures lead to sluggish batteries, your chances of experiencing a dead car battery will be increased. As the colder months approach, you will not only want to be equipped with a quality set of jumper cables in your car, you will also need to know how to use them safely.

Jump starting a vehicle isn’t difficult, but because jumper cables transmit electrical current from one car to another, it can be dangerous if not done correctly. It is necessary to take precautions to prevent dangerous electric shocks.

Once you have purchased your jumper cables and have them stowed in your vehicle, take some time to review these steps so you will be prepared to use them!

Getting Ready to Jump Starting the Car:

  1. Park the running car so the cars face each other, about one to two feet apart. Make sure that the cars are not in contact with each other.
  2. Set the parking brakes on both cars. Turn off both cars and take out the keys.
  3. Lay out the jumper cables on the ground, making sure the clamps do not touch each other.
  4. Open the hood to both cars. Locate the batteries and battery terminals. (See your owner’s manual for details). The two terminals on each battery are usually covered in red or black, with a + or – sign on top. Confirm you are able to identify which is positive, and which is negative, as this will be crucial to the success of your jump. Dirty or corroded battery terminals should be cleaned off with a rag or wire brush.

Attaching the Jumper Cables to the Car:

  1. Attach the red, positive cable clamp to the positive (+) battery terminal of the dead battery. Make sure you have a solid connection to the battery terminal.
  2. Attach the red, positive cable clamp on the other side of the jumper cables to the working battery’s positive (+) battery terminal
  3. Connect the black, negative cable clamp to the working battery’s negative (-) battery terminal. In the vehicle with the dead battery, attach that clamp to a metal part of the car that is unpainted, as far from the battery as the cable will reach. This will ground the circuit and help prevent sparking.
  4. Once you have one end of the jumper cables connected to a car, it is critical that the other end of the cables do not touch the metal clamps to anything other than the specified components on the other car. Make sure that none of the cables are in contact with moving engine parts before starting the engine.

Performing the Jump Start:

  1. Start the engine of the car with the working battery.
  2. Let the car to run for several minutes. The time required to get the jump to work may vary depending on the age and condition of the battery.
  3. Attempt to start the car with the dead battery. If unsuccessful, allow the working car to charge the battery for a several minutes longer and try again.
  4. As soon as the disabled car is running again, you can disconnect the jumper cables, starting with the black, negative cable clamps. Never allow the clamps to come in contact with each other while any part of the cables is still attached to a vehicle.
  5. Taking the charged car for a short drive lets the battery to build up a charge to ensure the battery doesn’t die again once you turn off the car.

The Road Salt Assault

Washes are Important Now for Removing Road Salt

road saltRoad salt is a necessary evil. It is great for preventing accidents and keeping roadways safe. Salt lowers the freezing/melting point of water, making it a fast and inexpensive way to melt slippery snow and ice on the road. The problem is that salt is also a highly corrosive element, and its affects can be extremely damaging to your vehicle.

Road salt exposure throughout the winter can wreak havoc on the metal components of your car. Most vehicles have an exposed underbody, so most salt damage occurs underneath the car, where it goes visually undetected. Rust on essential parts of your vehicle can leave you with huge problems ranging from brake system leaks to frame damage. While your rubber tires will suffer little or no damage from salt, your wheels are highly vulnerable, since the metal areas of your car are most at risk for salt damage.

Thankfully the coatings and paint finishes used in today’s automotive manufacturing do a much better job of providing protection against salt damage. And since the process of salt leading to corrosion and rust takes awhile, you have time to undo salt damage potential.

The best way to protect your car from road salt corrosion is to take it in for regular washings during the winter months . Base the frequency of your car washings on how much salt and road sludge it is exposed to on a regular basis. If you have really expensive wheels, consider swapping them out it the winter months, since salt is particularly hard on chrome.

For further protection, make it part of your fall routine to wax your vehicle. Waxing seasonally will make your washes more effective.

What Happened to My Heating System?

car heating system

Two Likely Reasons Why Your Car Heating System is Giving You the Cold Shoulder

You dust the snow off your vehicle and scrape the ice from the windshield. After letting your engine warm up for the usual amount of time, you turn up the thermostat, anticipating that warm, comforting heat. But then it hits you – a blast of cold air. You wonder, what happened to my car’s heating system?

How the Car Heating System Works

Your car heating system depends on an essential element called the heater core. The heater core acts as a heat exchanger, distributing heat into the cabin of the car. The car’s engine provides the original source for this heat, which increases as the engine operates.

Heat is conveyed from the engine to the heater core by way of a liquid called coolant. Coolant serves a dual purpose in that it first pumps through the engine to cool it and protect it from overheating, and then recycles the heat it removes by sending it into the radiator and circulating it to the heater core.

At least this is what happens if the heating system is functioning as it should.

Two Common Heating System Problems

If your car’s heater is blowing cold air, there are two issues that are often to blame:

  1. The coolant is not properly flowing through the heater core
  2. The air from the blower motor is not being directed through the heater core

In the case of coolant flow issues, the problem can often be attributed to a plugged heater core.

If the problem is air flow, it could be a malfunctioning, or stuck blend door. These doors are  flaps inside the ducts that open and close to allow heat or stop heat from coming through the vents into the passenger compartment.

If your car is not warming up to you, take it in to your auto pro to have it checked for these issues.