3 Car Problems to Stay on Top of This Winter
Happy New Year, everyone! Now that the holidays are officially a wrap, it’s time to get back to the daily grind, and for some of you, the daily commute. If one of your resolutions for 2017 was to stay on top of your vehicle’s maintenance schedule a little bit better, this post ought to help out with that.
To help you with your 2017 car maintenance goals, here are three specific car and truck issues you need to stay on top of when it’s beyond freezing outside.
- Low Tire Pressure
Did you know that the air inside your tires is essentially what is holding your car up off the ground, and that right now it’s very possible you are driving around on underinflated tires, without even realizing it? Yup, a tire can be about 50% underinflated before it becomes visibly noticeable.
In the winter, making sure your tires are properly inflated becomes a bit trickier, as the outdoor temperatures heavily influence the pressure inside your tires. It all goes back to elementary science class when we learned that cooler temperatures mean air is contracting (molecules are getting closer together).
This reduced volume in the air around you also means reduced volume in the air in your tires—a loss in pressure. So, any drastic dip in outdoor air temperature reduces your tire pressure to some degree. In other words, tires that were fine one day could be underinflated the next.
Why you should be worried about low tire pressure
Underinflated tires are a safety concern as they increase braking distances and can affect steering and handling—all things that become increasingly important the slippery road conditions at this time of year.
In addition to the safety risks of underinflated tires, there are also the $$$ to think about. Underinflated tires wear out quicker, and cars and trucks with underinflated tires get poorer gas mileage.
When it comes to checking your vehicle’s tire pressure, timing and frequency are everything. Tire manufacturers recommend checking on your tires every time you fill up for gas, every 10 degree change in temperature, or at least once a month. Try to do so when they are relatively cool.
A word on PSI
Right near the manufacturer’s logo, the sidewalls of your tires are all marked with a recommended PSI (pounds per square inch) range. Recommended tire pressure is usually around 30-35 PSI, depending on your vehicle. You can find out your vehicle’s recommended tire pressure by taking a look inside the owner’s manual, on a sticker in the door jam, on the trunk lid, or on the fuel door.
Keep in mind that it’s not always best to inflate to the maximum capacity, as doing so may put unnecessary strain on the tires. It’s all about finding that sweet spot, and if it sounds like a daunting task to do in the freezing cold, have an auto mechanic check on things initially to give you peace of mind.
If your tires are inflated to the recommended PSI, you are that much safer driving in winter conditions and having your car come out of cold weather unscathed.
For more tips on tire pressure, check out our post: Have You Checked Your Tire Pressure Lately?
- Freezing Fluids
Just like how water damage is devastating inside your home, ice damage can be devastating inside your vehicle. The cooler weather in January and February puts extra strain on your vehicle, but one way you can help it out is to make sure it’s equipped with the proper fluids, especially the correct types and levels coolant (also known as antifreeze), oil, and windshield wiper fluid. Doing so will prevent fluids from freezing and wreaking havoc under your hood.
The quickest way to handle this is to bring your vehicle in for a seasonal maintenance package, where all fluids such as brake fluid, transmission fluid, power steering fluid, engine oil, coolant, and windshield washer fluid levels are all checked over by a professional mechanic.
Why are fluids so important to keep an eye on in the winter? Well, if you’ve ever used water to top up your radiator’s antifreeze levels in the summer, it could spell disaster when this water freezes due to not enough antifreeze being present in your radiator. You need a minimum amount of antifreeze present to ensure nothing freezes on you overnight. Remember that repairing a cracked radiator due to ice damage equals huge cash in comparison to a simple fluid flush.
To find out if your antifreeze levels are adequate, you can test them yourself by picking up a testing kit at an auto parts store and making sure the fluid is filled to the maximum line in the correct ratios. (Then, in the future, to avoid having to top up your radiator’s fluids in the first place, go and get your radiator serviced so that it doesn’t leak anymore!)
For more advice on antifreeze, check out our post The Truth About Antifreeze
When it comes to your engine’s oil, you might consider switching to a thinner oil if you live or regularly travel to places where temperatures drop below freezing. If remaining in Victoria, you’re likely fine, but when in doubt, ask your auto mechanic the next time your drop in for a Searles Oil Change if it’s worth switching.
As for washer fluid, make sure you’ve switched over to a freeze-resistant formula so there’s no blockages when it comes to keeping your views of the roads clear.
Finally, battery fluid is another fluid you need to be leery about, especially if your battery is nearing the end of its life. Can battery fluid freeze? Well, it’s possible, but a lost less possible if your battery is fully charged…
Your car battery works very hard throughout the year, but come winter time, it must work extra hard in the cooler weather. In an interview with Cars.com, Gale Kimbrough, technical services manager for Interstate Batteries, says that “a car battery loses 33 percent of its power when the temperature drops below freezing and more than 50 percent when it goes below zero, so just when you need more power, you have less to start your car.”
A dead car battery in cold weather can be more than an inconvenience—it can be quite dangerous if it’s below freezing and you’re far away from receiving any roadside assistance. A weak or dying battery is not something you want to gamble over every time you go to start your ride.
A fully charged battery is required to get your car going in the colder temperatures that fall and winter bring. It will also come in handy for the longer times it takes to defrost in the morning (on the days you don’t have a scraper). Finally, in an emergency situation where you might have to be idling for long periods of time in freezing temperatures, a healthy battery can be a lifesaving commodity.
Having a mechanic run diagnostics on your car cattery is usually included in seasonal inspections, but ask for a full report if you’re at all curious about the health of your car battery. Sometimes the answer is visible: if you see signs of corrosion on the battery terminals, see loose connections, or the battery is leaking, your battery needs to be replaced. If it’s been so long that you don’t remember the last time you replaced your car battery, it’s probably time. Don’t take a chance in freezing weather!
For more car battery advice, check out our post, Important Things You Should Know About Your Car Battery
Book a Peace of Mind Winter Vehicle Inspection
If you have any questions or concerns about any of the above, come see us at Searles Auto Repair in Victoria, BC. The Searles Winter Maintenance Package is an affordable insurance policy that will help make sure your care stays in top-notch condition throughout the remaining cooler months on the road.
Give us a call at 1-250-475-2000 or schedule an appointment online before February 28, 2017, and you’ll have a chance to win an Apple Watch!