Preparing Your Car for Winter

Sunday, November 21st, 2010

Winter sure has arrived here in the Fraser Valley. As we are posting this article, it’s -8c outside. -8!!! We asked local mechanic, Brendan Grant, for some advice about preparing one’s car for the cold winter weather. We hear it’s going to be a cold one this year, so check out these great tips!

Q. Why is it important to prepare your car for the winter?

A. With colder temperatures bringing snow, ice and rain it’s clearly important to have your vehicle safe and in proper operating condition for the coming winter.

Cold weather puts more stress on your vehicle’s electrical system as it has to work harder to get the vehicle started and running to normal operating temperature. Items such as tires and brakes are even more important in icy and snowy conditions so having your vehicle checked and serviced prior to winter can prevent unnecessary break downs, help your vehicle run safely and save on overall repair costs.

Q. What steps should you take to get your car ready for winter driving

A. Have your vehicle inspected and tested to ensure that your tires, brakes, electrical, suspension, belts and cooling system are in good condition and operating as they should.

The only contact you have between you and the road is the surface of your tires. It’s this contact point that allows your vehicle to turn, stop and maintain control. Remember when the roads are slick, please drive slow and use additional caution.

Worn shocks and struts cause your tires to bounce rather than keeping your tires firmly planted to the road. This affects handling, control and stopping distance as well as causing wear on other suspension components and your tires.

Anti-lock brake systems are designed & proven to help safely stop your vehicle in a skidding situation. If your ABS light is on or if your brake pedal requires excess effort, feels spongy or chatters, then your brake system should be checked and serviced as required.

Your vehicles cooling system contains antifreeze which if diluted with too much water can cause the system to freeze up and cause damage to cooling system components. It’s an easy check with a hydrometer to check the specific gravity of your coolant.

Engine oil thickens with colder temperatures so as always it’s important to keep your oil changes regular and use the proper grade of engine oil.

Q. Here in the Fraser Valley, do you recommend snow tires or chains or will all season tires suffice for the weather we experience locally?

A. Snow tires are always better in snow and ice than all-season tires. They are softer and grip better allowing for better traction and stopping ability.

Here in the Fraser Valley, we experience sporadic snow throughout our winter months. I often get asked the question should I buy snows or just good all seasons? If money wasn’t an object I would recommend everyone have a set of four snow tires mounted on rims, so they are ready if and when we experience a snow fall.

Unfortunately it’s a budget question for most people so depending on the vehicle and each individual situation, the solutions can vary. Some all season tires are better than others in snow and ice and clearly any worn tires should be replaced before the winter months.

Chains can be handy if using all seasons and taking a skiing trip up to one of our local mountains. Four wheel drive vehicles have a huge advantage in traction over front wheel drive or rear wheel drive vehicles.

Q. What is the best way to deal with a vehicle door that is frozen shut or windshield wipers frozen to the window?

A. If a door is frozen shut the first thing to try is another door. Hopefully you can get in well enough to try opening the driver’s door from the inside. If your key turns in the lock, try turning the key while pulling on the door at the same time.

Clear away any ice or snow from the door and if available, try pouring washer fluid around the door openings. If the lock cylinder won’t turn there is lock de-icer available from your mechanic, hardware or auto parts store. Lastly, and using obvious caution, try applying heat with a blow dryer or other heat source to the door, especially to the latched area.

Be sure to check that your wipers aren’t frozen to your windshield after a snowfall or cold night. Usually they can be easily freed up by hand prior to turning them on. Never try using your wipers to push away heavy amounts of snow from your windshield. This can cause the motor to fail or the regulator to break, leaving you with one or no wipers operating.

Brendan Grant, BMG Automotive
Appointments through phone 778-836-1233
Twitter @BMGAuto

Contributor: Kelly Neufeld

Kelly Neufeld is a freelance writer who lives in Abbotsford with her husband and their two daughters. In addition to writing articles for the Fraser Valley Pulse, Kelly is a contributing writer & Marketing Coordinator for Impowerage Magazine. She enjoys spending time with her family, staying active and shopping.

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