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.

Winter Tires – Now is the Time to Plan

Winter DrivingFalling leaves and crisp temperatures are sure signs that winter driving season is just around the corner. If you are considering investing in a new set of winter tires this year, now is the time to plan. Waiting until the snow and ice hit to shop for winter tires could be risky. Winter tires are typically manufactured during the summer, so quantities are usually limited. If you wait too long to shop for your winter tires you may not get the best tires or the best deal.

In making your plans for winter driving, the first thing to consider is whether or not you actually need winter tires. Think about the weather in your region. Do you frequently drive in snowy or icy conditions? Do you find yourself worrying excessively about sliding off the road, being able to brake, or making it up even the slightest grade?  If the answer is yes, winter tires would probably be a wise investment for you. Winter tires provide a superior grip when driving, stopping, and cornering. Their specially designed tread bites into snow and ice and they are made with a softer rubber, which is formulated to stay pliable at freezing temperatures. These features also mean that winter tires wear faster than all-season tires, however as long as you change back to your all-season tires in the spring, your investment should last for several seasons.

When timing the purchase of your winter tires keep in mind that retailers begin to stock the newest models of winter tires in the fall, so that is when you will find the best selection. If your tire retailer does not have the tires you want in the size you need, you can usually order them, and your retailer will install them, at your convenience, before the winter weather season.

When shopping for winter tires, look for a mountain/snowflake symbol on the sidewall. This symbol lets you know that the tires have passed an industry test for severe snow use.

How to Jump Start a Dead Car Battery

Jumper CablesDo you know how to jump start a dead car battery? With the cold winter months right around the corner, this is an important question. When the temperatures drop, the chances of a dead battery increase significantly, since low temperatures lead to sluggish batteries. The process used to jump start a dead car battery is not difficult. Knowing what to do and always having a quality set of jumper cables on hand will get you through this otherwise frustrating situation.

Jump starting your car is not complicated, but it can be dangerous if you don’t do it right. Jumper cables transmit electrical current from one car to another. Precautions must be taken to prevent dangerous electric shocks. When one end of the jumper cables is connected to a car, the metal clamps should not touch each other or anything other than the specified components on the other vehicle. Wearing rubber gloves and protective eyewear is recommended for extra safety, so keep these items with your jumper cables.

Steps to Jump Start a Dead Car Battery:

  1. Position the running vehicle so the vehicles face each other, about one to two feet apart. Make sure that the vehicles are not in contact with each other.
  2. Engage the parking brakes on both vehicles. Turn off both vehicles and remove the keys.
  3. Stretch out the jumper cables on the ground, making sure the clamps do not touch each other.
  4. Open the hood to both cars. Referring to the respective owner’s manuals, locate the batteries and battery terminals. In most cases, the two terminals on each battery will be covered in red or black, with a + or – sign on top. Make sure 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Attach the red, positive cable clamp on the other side of the jumper cables to the working battery’s  positive (+) battery terminal
  7. 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.
  8. Verify that none of the cables are in contact with engine parts that will move when the engine is started.
  9. Start the engine of the vehicle with the working battery.
  10. Allow the car to run for several minutes.  Depending on the age and condition of the battery, the time required to get the jump to work may vary.
  11. Attempt to start the car with the dead battery. If unsuccessful, allow the working vehicle to charge the battery for a several minutes longer and try again.
  12. Once 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.

Take the charged car for a short drive to allow the battery to build up a charge and ensure your car does not die again once you turn it off.

A jump start may fail if there are other issues that need to be addressed including:

  • Bad starter connection
  • Fuses are bad
  • Battery condition
  • Faulty alternator
  • Ignition switch issues

 

Road Salt Blues

road saltWinter road salt is critical 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. Unfortunately, salt is also a highly corrosive element, and its affects can be extremely damaging, leaving your car with the road salt blues.

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.

Fortunately, 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 in the fall will help make your winter washes more effective.

The Cold Facts About Tire Pressure

It is always alarming to see one of the gazillion warning lights on your dashboard illuminate. If you drive a newer vehicle that has an integrated Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) you may find you’ve been recently haunted by the light shown on the right. Seeing the TPMS light more often in winter is not uncommon, but it is also not something you should ignore.

First, it is important to understand how your TPMS works. The system use sensors technology to alert drivers when tire pressure in one of the tires goes below a predetermined level. When tire pressure in one or more of your drops, the light comes on.

Since air pressure decreases in frigid temperatures, drivers tend to see the TPMS light illuminate. According to tire experts, air pressure in a tire goes down 1-2 pounds for every 10 degrees of temperature change. While you need not necessarily be surprised if  you see the TPMS light come on during cold spells, you should be sure to manually check the air pressure of your tires.

It is very important to check the pressure of your tires when it is cold outside and to keep tires inflated to the proper levels. Reasons include:

  • 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

Check the pressure of your tires monthly. In order to obtain the most accurate pressure level, wait until tires have cooled – about 30 minutes after parking.

Are You Ready for Winter Driving?

We are well into fall, and winter weather is just around the corner! Get ready for winter driving with these simple winter maintenance tips:

  • Inspect Your Tire Tread & Check Tire Pressure 
    Be sure to check your tire tread depth. Make sure you have at least 2/32″ of depth for best tire performance.  It is also important to check tire pressure. This should be done on a regular basis, but it is especially imperative to check tire pressure before winter arrives. Remember to also check your spare – you never know when you’ll need it.
  • Make Sure Your Antifreeze Tank Is Full
    It is important to maintain a full tank with a 50/50 mix of water and antifreeze. Clean, quality antifreeze will deliver the winter protection your vehicle needs.
  • Test and Inspect Your Battery
    Extreme cold temperatures can degrade car batteries internally and accelerate the rate of battery terminal corrosion. This will lead to a battery that is more likely to die. Don’t risk getting stranded! Check your battery cables to make sure they are clean and firmly attached to the terminals.
  • Check Your Washer Fluid & Wipers
    We use much more washer fluid in the winter, when dirty slush and snow continually hit the windshield. Keep the washer fluid tank full. Choose a winter cleaning formula that contains sufficient antifreeze ingredients to keep it from freezing. Also, be sure that your wipers are in decent shape to do their job. The blades should make full contact with the glass to thoroughly clean it. If you live in an area with heavy snow fall, consider installing winter wiper blades that wrap the blade frame in a rubber boot to reduce ice and snow buildup, and promote good contact between the blade and the glass.

Once you have take these maintenance steps, you will be ready to face the ice and snow. Most importantly, in seriously hazardous winter driving conditions, remember to take it slowly and drive safely!

All-Wheel Drive and Four-Wheel Drive

Although the terms may sound similar, all-wheel drive and four-wheel drive are very different systems. On all-wheel drive vehicles, the drivetrain has a front, rear and center differential to provide power to all four wheels of a vehicle. On a four-wheel drive vehicle, the drivetrain has two differentials and a transfer case to provide power to all four wheels of a vehicle. All-wheel drive is found on cars and crossover vehicles, while trucks and truck-based sport utility vehicles usually have four-wheel drive. Both all-wheel and four-wheel drive systems improve vehicle acceleration in slippery conditions, and can enable better handling on some types of roads or terrain.

All-wheel drive and  four-wheel drive can be worth the extra investment if you live in an area that gets heavy rain or snowfall for much of the year. Also, if you tend to do a lot of off-road driving or driving on unpaved roads, all-wheel or four-wheel drive will be a highly beneficial investment for you. Additional advantages to having all-wheel drive or four wheel drive include better traction with towing and often in some cases, added resale value.

There are drawbacks to having an all-wheel drive or four-wheel drive vehicle. All-wheel and four-wheel drive systems mean lower fuel economy and often require more maintenance than standard vehicles. An advantage that four-wheel drive offers that  all-wheel drive does not is that it can be turned off, so you can only use it when you need it, saving that extra fuel cost.

If you are considering whether or not to invest in an all-wheel or four-wheel drive vehicle for safer winter driving, keep in mind that selecting the right type of tire may be the best thing you can do to enhance safety and performance.