Pella Chronicle

October 19, 2011

Help Your Car Withstand Harsh Winter Weather


The Chronicle

Pella — Automobiles can be very resilient. Drivers typically don't treat their cars with kid gloves, but most cars keep chugging along in spite of it. Of course, drivers who treat their cars well can expect to get as much in return from their vehicles. That's especially true when winter weather arrives, which is the harshest season vehicles must endure every year. Harsh weather coupled with less-than-ideal roadways typically take their toll on a vehicle as the season progresses, and it's up to drivers to help their cars withstand the elements of winter and make it to spring in drivable condition. Short of moving to a locale that's warm and sunny 12 months a year, there's little drivers can do to avoid winter weather; however, there are several ways drivers can prepare their vehicles for the months ahead.

Address your antifreeze. Much like a winter coat protects people from winter weather, antifreeze protects vehicles when the weather outside is frightful. Not every antifreeze is created equal, and inadequate antifreeze can cause water pump failure and even a cracked engine block. Drivers often fail to monitor their antifreeze levels throughout the winter, which can hurt their cars and might even be harmful to the environment. Traditional ethylene glycol, or EG, antifreezes have a sweet smell and taste that attracts animals and, if ingested, can harm local wildlife or even household pets. Propylene glycol antifreeze does not boast a sweet smell or taste, and though safe if ingested, reduces the likelihood that animals will be drawn to it. AMSOIL Propylene Glycol Antifreeze is compatible with all other antifreeze products and does not require a complete system flush before usage, easing the transition from EG antifreeze to a more eco-friendly alternative.

Check the vehicle's charging system. Car batteries are forced to work harder in cold weather, making it easier for a battery to die when the mercury drops. To avoid being stranded in the cold, ask your mechanic to check the vehicle's charging system before the onset of winter to ensure the battery is ready for the cold months ahead.

Don't tread lightly. Tire treads are especially important during the colder months, when icy or snow-packed roads make driving a dangerous undertaking. Tires with adequate traction are better equipped to handle roads that might be covered in ice, dirt or grime from sand and salt trucks. Check tire pressure regularly, especially when the temperatures are colder, and always inflate tires to the manufacturer-recommended PSI. PSI ratings can often be found on the driver's side door.

Monitor motor oil. An engine is only as good as the motor oil that keeps it lubricated. Poor lubrication results in friction between engine components, ultimately leading to wear and potentially taking years off engine life. Drivers should regularly monitor their motor oil levels and adhere to the manufacturer's guidelines. When choosing a lubricant, look for a synthetic motor oil to maintain engine protection and performance. Synthetic motor oils provide significant benefits over their conventional counterparts, particularly in colder weather when conventional motor oil thickens as the temperature drops. When the mercury starts to sink, conventional motor oils can slow starting rpm, restrict oil flow to critical engine parts and increase wear on bearings and rings. Conversely, synthetic motor oils still flow or pump at temperatures as much as 50 below zero, allowing cars and trucks to start with greater ease.

Maintain visibility. Visibility is especially poor during the winter months when falling snow and dirt and grime are kicked up from the rear tires of other vehicles, making it difficult to see. To maintain adequate visibility throughout the winter, inspect wiper blades to make sure they are in peak condition. Be sure the blade fully clears the windshield of snow, rain and any other debris that might find its way into your driving line of vision. Never leave the house without enough windshield washer fluid in the reservoir, and keep an extra bottle of fluid in the trunk just to be safe. Winter driving conditions are rarely, if ever, ideal