Top 5 Reasons Your Car Breaks Down in Autumn and How to Avoid Them
If you’re anything like the team here at Searles Auto Repair, you tend to deny winter is coming and delay pulling out the winter boots for as long as possible. “It’s still not dipping below zero out there! I’m good,” you might catch yourself saying some mornings.
While it’s true that here on Vancouver Island in British Columbia we can put off the winter wardrobe for longer than other provinces can, one thing we shouldn’t put off is prepping our vehicles for the wet roads already upon us and the cold weather that’s about to strike. (You can smell it in the air – snow’s a comin’!)
There are a few important car maintenance tasks to have your auto mechanic perform before the weather gets colder. It may seem like overkill, but a few dollars of autumn maintenance can mean a winter of car problems avoided. Here are a few things to pay attention to when it comes to maintaining your car or truck throughout the fall and winter months.
The problem: Those once-beautiful, autumn-coloured leaves were lovely when they were attached to the trees, but the fallen leaves of autumn pose both a safety risk and a hazard to vehicles out there. Not only do they lead to slippery roads, but they also manage to cover up potholes and puddles, and clog drains on the roads, leading to flooding and increased hydroplaning potential.
In addition, the sap, tannic acid, and pollen from leaves can stain your vehicle’s paint job. They can also get caught up in the air intakes and cowls, restricting airflow under the hood and cause poor fuel economy and poor defrosting of the windshield.
The solution: The easiest solution on this list is right here: Avoiding parking under trees if you can help it; routinely check for leaves under your front bumper; and remove lingering leaves from your hood and wiper cowl area.
Damage already done? Refer to the guide How to Remove Leaf Stains From a Car’s Finished Paint Surface.
The problem: Your aging car battery had it easy during summer. However, autumn is a wake-up call should your battery be nearing its final hours. Having a car battery die out of the blue is annoying at the best of times, but in cold weather it can be quite stressful and worrisome.
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 is a huge, potentially lifesaving bonus.
The solution: It’s simple! Make sure your battery is in tip top shape by having it checked by a skilled auto mechanic. This service is usually included in seasonal inspections anyhow, but ask for a full report if you’re not sure. Sometimes the answer is obvious; for example, if you see signs of corrosion on the battery terminals, see loose connections, or the battery fluid is low, 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.
For more car battery advice, check out our post, Important Things You Should Know About Your Car Battery
The problem: Colder weather and hairier driving conditions put extra strain on vehicles as they have to work harder to get you to and from safely and soundly.
Think about how much more windshield washer fluid you go through as you try to defrost in a hurry. This is just one reason why it’s best to make sure all your vehicles fluids are topped up and in good working order to ensure a smooth, safe ride. Here’s another one: If you’ve been topping up your radiator’s coolant levels with water throughout the summer, it could spell disaster when this water freezes due to not enough antifreeze being present.
The solution: Make sure to get your brake fluid, transmission fluid, power steering fluid, engine oil, windshield washer fluid, and coolant levels checked by a professional mechanic. This could be as easy as booking a seasonal maintenance package, which takes care of fluids and more.
Let these wet, dreary days of November buy you extra time to get your vehicle’s fluids topped up before winter really hits. Tending to your vehicle’s fluids shouldn’t be put off until the first frosty morning, or it could be too late!
The problem: Autumn in Victoria is wet. As it has been known to rain here days on end at this time of year, it’s not unusual that moisture and condensation can get into your vehicle’s electrical system and cause things like your lights, power windows, and music to short out, not to mention the more dreadful problems that can occur when your electrical system gets wet.
Condensation of the vehicle’s electrical system is caused by all that water from rain-soaked streets—even condensation from a cold morning dew can affect wiring connectors, causing a short circuit to ground. You’ll know you have a moisture-related electrical problem if you can see water droplets on your wires or connectors. Water on the outside often means water has gotten inside.
The solution: Auto mechanics swear by packing connectors with dielectric grease, which will help keep out moisture and corrosion. However, the problem could be stemming from somewhere else, like moisture seeping in through your dashboard dials. If you’ve left a window open in the rain and fear a problem, or went a little overboard with your interior washing, find a can of compressed air to push as much moisture as possible out of the area.
If your interior is constantly letting in moisture during this time of year, you’ll need to investigate further as to what’s causing the condensation on the inside of your windshield and dashboard. Check out this post How To Stop Condensation In Your Car for some simple ways to battle all that condensation Victoria has to offer.
The problem: No one likes to think about rodents scurrying in and amongst their house and home, but it’s always a possibility as these little guys scramble to find warm shelter and food. Maybe you don’t consider your vehicle that much of a meal, but with some manufacturers turning to biodegradable plastics that incorporate plant-based materials, your vehicle may become quite appealing to hungry critters. In particular, rats like sharpening their teeth on plastic wire harnesses and rubber hoses.
The solution: Clear out your garage and park inside! Failing that, there is rodent-deterrent tape on the market that is basically electrical tape treated with super-spicy capsaicin—a natural substance rats can’t stand. You might also take your chances with using regular electrical tape or installing metal mesh around enticing car parts and anywhere rodents could find their way into your ventilation or intake systems.
Extra Vehicle Maintenance Tips for Fall & Winter
- Windshield wipers – Check them out and replace them at the first sign of struggle.
- Tire pressure – Make sure your tires are evenly inflated to the right specifications.
- Heater and defrosters – Are both systems in good working order? You’re in for an uncomfortable ride to work if they aren’t.
- Roadside emergency rations – As accident rates increase come winter, make sure you’re prepared with an emergency kit fully stocked with tools, snacks, blankets, and other items to get you through getting stranded on the side of the road (or worse…).
- Headlights – Complete a visual inspection to make everything is bright and cheery here.
- Brakes – If your car’s brakes are wearing thin, it will spell disaster in this weather. It could be time for some new pads. It never hurts to know for sure—ignorance is NOT bliss when it comes to your brakes!
If you have any questions or concerns about your car’s maintenance & service requirements this Fall, come see us at Searles Auto Repair in Victoria, BC. Our friendly experts are always here to help! You can also give us a call at 1-250-475-2000 or schedule an appointment online to get your car ready for winter.
Life gets busy at this time of year! Don’t let car troubles slow you down out there.