Winter is rapidly approaching, and depending on where in Australia you are, wind, ice, and sleet will be in hot pursuit.
If you live in an area that experiences harsh winters, then driving can become a real challenge. Luckily, there are a few simple steps you can take to keep your car in tip-top condition, no matter what the weather is doing.
While snow and ice may be rare in most parts of the country, it can and does come every so often. If you plan on travelling to mountainous regions or ski resorts in your car, then to be prepared is to be protected.
Follow these ten simple tips to ensure your vehicle survives the onslaught of winter and makes it through to summer in perfect condition.
1. Show The Exterior Some Love
It’s what’s inside that counts, but appearances matter too. You want your car to be functional but at the same time, look good.
Spend a little bit of time to scrub away any excess dirt and occasional stains. This goes deeper than just looks though. It helps protect your vehicle from corrosion, pollutants and chemical erosion.
It’s good practice to thoroughly clean the exterior of your car more than once per season. Invest in high-quality car wax for maximum protection against ice, chemicals and road salt. Plus, who doesn’t love a shiny car!
2. Consider Changing Your Oil
When you think of winter car maintenance, oil is probably not the first thing that springs to mind. The benefits of switching from conventional to synthetic oil are many.
Depending on the car make and model, now may well be the perfect time to make the switch. Synthetic oil is much easier on the engine and generally contributes to better function in cold, extreme weather.
Unlike conventional oil, synthetic oil doesn’t need time to warm up, thus offering protection to the moving parts of the engine from the moment you start the engine.
If you’re not switching to full-synthetic oil, you can start by trying a synthetic blend. Synthetic blends consist of part synthetic oil and part conventional oil, offering many of the benefits of full synthetic oil at a lower price.
On average, blends are 30% cheaper than their full synthetic counterparts. But before making any major decisions or changes, it’s always best to check with your manufacturer or mechanic first.
3. Boost Your Battery
Perhaps you’re not aware of it yet, but that scorching summer heat-wave might have taken its toll on your car’s battery. You won’t know until the first cold winter morning comes around, and you realise that you’re dealing with an unresponsive engine.
Make sure that you test your battery and that you replace it if needed. Sooner or later, your car battery will need a check up, which is why this is better done sooner rather than later. No one needs a dead battery in the middle of winter.
Bear in mind, even if you do replace your old battery with a fresh one, there’s still no guarantee that the battery won’t fail. Unfortunately, no battery is safe from extreme weather, but there are few things you can do to boost it.
If you experience extreme cold in your region, or if you don’t use your car often, a trickle charger can keep your battery alive. In cold weather, the battery is working harder than usual and loses power when it’s not in use.
If you’re not planning on using the vehicle during the winter season, consider disconnecting the battery entirely, which will prevent any potential power draws.
4. Visibility is crucial
Visibility is always important, but even more so during winter. Fog, mist and rain can all cause visibility problems that make driving more dangerous.
The first thing you will want to do is ensure that all of your lights are working. Next, replace any headlights or tail lights that appear dim or have a dull yellow look to them. Thoroughly clean the lights and lenses as you go.
In cold climates with ice and freezing temperatures, it’s a good idea to replace windshield wipers. Replace your wipers with winter blades and at the very least, switching out worn down wipers with newer ones. Also, consider filling your cars windshield tank with de-icing fluid too.
Any cracks in your windows should also be taken care of. As water freezes, it expands. This can force small cracks to become big ones and make driving much more hazardous.
Check your car’s heater and cooling fans are working, helping blast away any condensation and steam from the windscreen as it builds up. You may want to consider using a hydrophobic screenwash to repel heavy rain with ease.
5. Inspect Your Tyres
Tyres with good traction can save lives. Check your tyres and make sure that the treads have sufficient depth. If they don’t, replace them for ones that do.
Better traction contributes to a much safer driving experience. It also means it’s easier to deal with dangerous road conditions. If you get a lot of ice or snow in your region or, plan on travelling to a region that does, it may be a good idea to invest in snow tyres.
Another important thing to take care of is tyre pressure. As temperatures start to drop, so does the air pressure. Low air pressure translates into weaker and under-inflated tyres.
Not only do under-inflated tyres reduce overall handling and traction, but they also wear down much faster. It may come as a surprise to some, but in the long run, under-inflated tyres can hurt fuel economy.
In the summer months, you can reduce tyre pressure. But in the winter months, fill them back to the recommended levels. Try not to over-inflate as this can create less traction on wet or icy roads.
6. Antifreeze Control
An engine’s cooling system consists of equal parts of water and antifreeze. The chemicals present in antifreeze (ethylene glycol or propylene glycol) prevent water from freezing or expanding, both of which can cause significant damage to the engine.
An antifreeze checker can measure your antifreeze’s strength. Alternatively, you can have it checked by a mechanic. The test will reveal the lowest temperature the engine can reach before it begins to freeze.
If this temperature is too high, it might indicate a fault with the antifreeze chemicals, in which case a replacement may be due. While you’re at it, ensure that the coolant reservoir fills up to the proper level and then top it up ready for the long winter ahead.
7. Clean Your Fuel Injector
A vehicle’s fuel system is easily affected by cold temperatures. By using a fuel injector cleaner, you can prevent some of these problems from happening.
Think of a fuel injector as the ultimate problem-prevention tool. You add it to the fuel tank as a way of cleaning the injectors, restoring any lost power and providing considerable help with hard starts.
When temperatures drop low enough, water that exists in the fuel system can freeze and cause all kinds of problems. Fuel injectors are designed to remove water from the fuel system, preventing future freeze-ups.
Fuel injector cleaners are relatively cheap and easy to use but can help with so many potential issues. No reason to not use them!
8. Take Care With Diesel
Winter is a bit trickier for vehicles that run on diesel. Diesel fuel lines tend to “gel” up when the paraffin that is present in the fuel solidifies due to sudden drops in temperature.
To fix this mess, you’d most likely have to take your vehicle to a mechanic to have the gel thawed. Emergency power service products can de-ice frozen fuel filters and remove water from diesel tanks.
It’s always a good idea to have such a product at hand. It’s also important to make sure that your diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) levels are ideal.
Many vehicles monitor the use of DEF automatically. They display warnings when levels are low and will, if necessary, restrict usage or even prevent DEF levels from being exhausted.
9. Low Price To De-Ice
Keeping your engine hot and ice-free is crucial. An engine is of no use if your doors and locks remain jammed shut and you can’t get into your car.
Lock de-icers and windshield fluids are inexpensive and easy-to-use. Lock de-icers help prevent damage by thawing and lubricating door locks. It takes less than 5 minutes to use one of these de-icers, and it’s certainly more than worth your trouble.
Most de-icers can be used on already-frozen locks, but can also prevent locks from freezing in the first place. Lock de-icers and windshield fluids are not harmful to original paintwork of your car and are a must if you are driving into the mountains during winter.
10. Check Your Radiator And Thermostat
The radiator cap is a simple and inexpensive part but is of vital importance to your heating and cooling system. It keeps the antifreeze in place and prevents leakage. A faulty radiator cap can cause overheating and allow antifreeze to leak.
Inspect the area thoroughly and ensure that there’s no leaking fluid. Even if everything looks okay, consider replacing your radiator cap with a new one if it’s more than a few years old.
The thermostat is another inexpensive but important component that monitors heat. A faulty thermostat will give off false signals and can prevent the engine from heating up properly.
Thermostats tend to fail when corrosion appears, which could be the sign of an ineffective coolant. A failing thermostat is never a good sign, so make sure you replace yours in good time before the cold wind and rain heads your way.