Are You Sure You Can Depend On Your Brakes This Winter?

Snow and ice are here and will be a problem on the roads for the next few months. In order to assure safe winter driving, it is essential to make sure your brakes are in optimal condition and proper working order.

winter snow on road stop sign

The brake system on your vehicle is extremely complex, consisting of numerous integrated components that deteriorate over time. Drivers must always be on the lookout for signs of potential brake issues. Brake problem warning signs can lead to expensive problems if ignored. More importantly, your safety and the safety of others could be in danger if your brakes fail. Pay attention to these common warning signs of brake problems:

Six Common Brake Problem Warning Signs

  1. Strange Noises

Hearing strange noises when you stop your vehicle? Your brake pads may have an excessive amount of wear if you hear a high, screeching sound when you apply the brakes.

  1. Vehicle Pulls to One Side

If your vehicle swerves to one side as you apply the brakes, the brake lining may be worn unevenly or brake fluid may be compromised.

  1. Brake Pedal Feels Odd or Spongy

Does it might feel spongy or does your foot sink to the floor when you hit the brake pedal? You may have a leak in the braking system, such as an air leak in the brake hose or a brake fluid leak. A brake pedal that feels stiff or is difficult to press may be a sign that there is a blockage in the brake line or an issue in the vacuum system.

  1. Too Much Vibration When Braking

Excessive vibration in your brake pedal may be a sign of trouble. This will feel similar to the vibration you feel when the anti-lock brakes feature engages. This vibration or pulsating can be a sign of warped rotors.

  1. Jerking Sensation As Brakes are Applied

If you experience a grabbing or jerking feeling when applying the brakes, it could be a sign that the rotor is unevenly worn or that the brake fluid is contaminated.

  1. Brake System Service Light Activates

Your vehicle’s on-board diagnostic system, if any problems are detected, will light up the brake system service light on your vehicle’s dashboard. It might also come on even when there is no problem, because you see the brake service light up. It’s a good idea to have your brakes inspected if your service light comes on.

brake service brake disc

Don’t Take Chances With Vehicle Safety

Winter road conditions bring enough driving challenges. Don’t take chances by ignoring the signs of brake problems. Have your vehicle inspected right away if you notice any of the common indicators of brake trouble.

Seven Ways to Prepare Your Vehicle For Winter

November is here and winter is upon us. As you brace yourself for dropping temperatures and snow falls, don’t forget that your vehicle needs to be prepared for winter, too. Wondering how to prepare your vehicle for winter? Think about preventative maintenance and consider stowing items in your car so you’ll be prepared for emergencies.

Preparing your car for winter

Photo credit: Julian Faist / Unsplash

Here are seven important vehicle maintenance and winter preparation items you should take care of to be sure that your car is ready for the cold weather:

  1. 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.
  2. Top off your antifreeze: When was the last time you checked or refilled your antifreeze? If it’s been a while, now is definitely the time to take care of it.
  3. Check your wiper fluid and condition of your wipers: Clear visibility is essential to your safety on the road. Ample wiper fluid and good wiper blades will help keep your windshield clear.
  4. Get a wash and wax: Your vehicle will be subjected to a lot of abuse from ice, snow, and salt. Head into the winter months with a little extra protection.
  5. Gather 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. 
  6. 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.
  7. 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 activities and obligations fill up your schedule, take care of these winter car care items. You will be prepared when the winter weather arrives in full force.

Seeing Your TPMS Warning Light? It Might Not Mean What You Think.

Drivers of newer vehicles have a host of warning lights to alert them to potential vehicle problems. While extremely helpful, this technology can lead to confusion. When those anxiety-inducing lights come on, it may not mean what you think it means. For example, seeing the TPMS (tire pressure monitoring system) warning light does not necessarily mean there is a problem with your tires.

Cold Weather TPMS Warning Light

If your car’s TPMS warning light comes on when the temperatures are extremely cold, it may be a simple problem that is easier to fix than you think.

How the TPMS Light Works

tpms_display1The TPMS light is part of the pressure monitoring system that involves sensors that are connected to your actual tires.  The TPMS symbol looks like an exclamation point in parentheses. It lights up when the pressure in one or more of your tires is reduced by around 25%. It may also indicate an issue with the tire pressure monitoring system, such as a dead battery.

There is also a reason the light can come on that is not a sign of trouble, but instead just and indication of the season.

How Cold Temperatures Affect Tire Pressure

Tire pressure can decrease about 1 PSI (pounds per square inch) for every 10 degrees the temperature drops. It isn’t because the air is escaping, but because the air inside the tire is condensing and taking up less space. The effect is temporary because as you drive the tire will heat up, which increases the tire’s pressure.

Additionally, tires tend to lose about 1 PSI per month from seepage of air around the edge of the rim, and even through the tread. Together these factors can cause tire pressure to drop as much as 25 percent below the recommended level. The sensing transmitters inside your tires notice this and trigger your TPMS dash light. If your TPMS light comes on you may not have a problem. You may just need to check your air and bring your tires up to the right pressure.

Don’t Ignore The TPMS Warning Light

It is good to know you may not need to start shopping for tires when you see that light, however that does not mean you should ignore it.  Seeing that light means your tires are below the proper air pressure, which increases the chance of tire failure, compromised handling, improper tire and tread wear, and poor gas mileage. 

Check your tire pressure at least once a month during the winter, and have your technician check your tires to make sure there is not a bigger problem triggering that TPMS warning light.

Are You Sure You Can Rely On Your Car Heater?

This is the time of year when we all appreciate a little extra warmth and comfort. This is especially true when we climb into our icy vehicles and head out into the wind and snow. Although it is easy to just assume that heat will always be there when you press a button or turn the dial, you want to be certain you can rely on your car heater to perform properly.

Vehicle stranded in snow, cold, no heat

How Does Your Car Heater Work?

Your car heater is actually a system of components. The heater core acts as a heat exchanger, distributing heat into the cabin of the car. Heat is transferred from the engine to the heater core through a liquid called coolant. Coolant pumps through the engine to cool it to protect it from overheating. The heat is recycled and sent to the radiator, then circulated to the heater core. Since the engine is the original heat source for the car’s heater, the heat increases as the engine runs.

What Can Go Wrong With The Heater? 

When your car’s heating doesn’t work, there two problems that are the most common causes:

Coolant flow issues can often be attributed to a plug in the heater core. Your auto technician will be able to find and remove the plug to correct the issue.

Air flow problems are commonly caused by a malfunctioning, or stuck blend door. These doors are the flaps inside the ducts that open and close to allow or prevent heat from coming through the vents into the passenger compartment.

Get your car checked out by your auto technician as soon as you notice heating problems to decrease the chances of you getting stuck in the cold.

How Can I Optimize My Car Heater Performance?

Consumer Reports has some interesting tips to help you get the most out of your car’s heating system. Here are a few:

Resist the urge to crank the heat when you first get in the car. Your car needs time to get the heat circulating, since that heat comes from a running engine. Turning the heat flow all the way up as soon as you start the car just blasts everyone with cold air – it is more effective (and comfortable) to let your car run for a while first.

Keep the A/C on to help prevent the windows from fogging up. Your air conditioning compressor removes humidity/moisture from the air before it is heated by the heating core. Without conditioning, the moisture in the air collects on the cold windows and impacts your invisibility. Taking the system off of “recirculation mode” also helps prevent fogging.

Stay safe and stay warm!

Two Car Heating Problems That Could Leave You Cold

The recent cold snap has everyone thinking about the importance of being prepared for winter driving. Making sure your car’s heating system is functioning properly is essential – particularly if you are preparing for a long car trip. 

Vehicles in Snow

In this post, we will focus on recognizing two common car heating problems that can be avoided.

Understanding the Heater Function

Your car heating system depends on its heater core. The heater core serves 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 transferred from the engine to the heater core through a liquid called coolant. Coolant pumps through the engine to cool it to protect it from overheating, and also recycles the heat it removes by sending it into the radiator and circulating it to the heater core.

Common Car Heating Problems

In the event of car heating problems, one of two issues is typically 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

Coolant flow issues can often be attributed to a plugged heater core. Air flow problems could be due to a malfunctioning, or stuck blend door. These doors are the flaps inside the ducts that open and close to allow heat or stop heat from coming through the vents into the passenger compartment.

If you notice any car heating problems or a heating irregularities, be sure to have your car checked out as soon as possible by your trusted auto technician. Getting the problem fixed will assure you don’t get stuck in the cold.

Feeling Salty? Protect Your Car from Salt on Roads

Salt on roads plays a key role in making winter driving safer by preventing accidents due to lost traction on slippery snow and ice. Salt lowers the freezing/melting point of water, making it a fast and inexpensive way to melt snow and ice on the road. The problem with salt on roads is that it is a highly corrosive element, which can be highly damaging to your vehicle.

Snowy Street Salt on Roads

Exposure to salt on roads throughout the winter is very hard on the metal components of your car. Most vehicles have an exposed underbody, so a great deal of 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  damage from salt on roads.

The good news is that the coatings and paint finishes used in today’s automotive manufacturing do a much better job of protecting vehicles against salt damage. The process of salt leading to corrosion and rust takes awhile, you fortunately have time to undo salt damage potential.

The best way to protect your car from road salt corrosion is to take it to the car wash for regular washings during the winter months. How frequently your car should be washed will depend on how much salt and road sludge you drive through on a regular basis. If you have really expensive wheels, consider swapping them out in the winter months, since salt is especially damaging to chrome.

Waxing seasonally will make your washes more effective and provide additional protection for your vehicle.

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.