The Ultimate Guide to Winter Car Care

Posted on in Featured by Paul Harpe

Ways to prepare your car for winter.

In a city like Edmonton that’s famous for its winters, winterizing your car isn’t just an optional procedure; it’s a must if you want to ensure a long and healthy life for your vehicle. And although there are some costs associated with preparing your car for winter driving, this small investment will help you avoid many of the costly breakdowns and accidents that are often associated with winter driving. So in order to help you prepare for the coming season, here are 10 things you should do to your vehicle before the temperature drops below freezing.  

1. Get a Tune-Up

Not only do regular tune-ups help improve gas mileage, seasonal tune-ups are the best way to ensure that your vehicle is prepared for the coming weather changes. When tuning up your vehicle for the winter, have your mechanic check all of your belts and hoses – these can be weakened by cold weather, so if any are showing signs of weakness, it’s a good idea to replace them before they snap.

Even if your vehicle’s not due for an oil change yet, it can be a good idea to get an oil change before the temperature drops, as fresh oil and a clean filter will leave your vehicle in prime running condition for the harsh conditions to come.

2. Get an Oil Change

Even if your vehicle’s not due for an oil change yet, it can be a good idea to get an oil change before the temperature drops, as fresh oil and a clean filter will leave your vehicle in prime running condition for the harsh conditions to come. This will help prevent breakdowns and reduce wear and tear on your engine. 

3. Keep an Eye On Your Fluid Levels

While you may be able to get away with low fluid levels during the summer, it’s important to pay special attention to your fluid levels in winter. You’ll want to keep your windshield washer fluid topped up with winter-grade fluid, and you may even want to carry an extra bottle with you, as you’ll probably go through a lot of it throughout the season. You should keep your coolant topped up as well, and make sure it maintains a ratio of around 50:50 antifreeze to water, as this will prevent the coolant from freezing. In addition, it’s good practice to keep your fuel tank at least half full throughout the winter, as condensation forms in your fuel tank when the fuel level is low, and in colder temperatures, this condensation can freeze and cause issues in your fuel tank.  

4. Make Sure You’re Using the Right Oil

In addition to keeping your oil topped up, you should also check your manufacturer’s recommendation to find out which oil is best to use in the winter. It is a good practice to make sure the correct oil is in the engine, the only seasonal switch of oil would be perhaps from conventional in the summer to a synthetic of the same viscosity in the winter for improved flow, rather than a different weight altogether. Most people who use synthetic run it all year, but some drivers will choose to switch seasonally.

5. Make Sure You’re Using the Right Tires

While switching to another set of tires for winter driving can seem like an unnecessary expense, the trade-offs you receive in safety and improved vehicle performance are well worth the expense. In fact, some provinces even require drivers by law to change over to winter tires for certain months of the year. While this is not the case in Alberta, it’s still an excellent idea to set your vehicle up with a good set of winter tires as soon as temperatures start to dip below 0°C. Winter tires work better and keep you safer than all-season tires in cold weather conditions, and not just in ice and snow – winter tires dramatically outperform all-season tires for stopping ability even on dry pavement with temperatures just below 0°C.

6. Make Sure Your Tire Pressure Is Correct

Cold air causes air pressure to drop, so your tires will most likely need some extra air as you head into the winter months. The life of a tire is shortened by over/under inflation and can affect how the vehicle handling and control characteristics.You’ll also want to check your tire pressure regularly throughout the winter, as correct tire pressure will improve fuel efficiency.

7. Check Your Battery

Engines need more battery input to get started in the winter, but cold weather is also tough on batteries – during the cold season, even a fully-charged battery could only be running on half the power it’s rated for. This is why many vehicles have trouble getting started in the winter. To avoid this problem, have your battery checked by a mechanic before the temperature gets too low.  

During the cold season, even a fully-charged battery could only be running on half the power it’s rated for.

8. Plug It In

While a healthy battery will help your car start better, sometimes in extreme temperatures, that’s not enough to beat the cold. When temperatures hit -15 C and lower, you may want to use a block heater to keep your engine warm overnight. With an elevated engine temperature, your engine will have a much easier time getting started every morning – a useful feature if you don’t want to be late for work.  

9. Change Your Wiper Blades

Switching to winter wiper blades is a simple and inexpensive process that will save you a lot of hassle and make winter driving safer. In contrast to normal wiper blades, winter blades are designed to maintain contact with windshields, even in freezing conditions. On most vehicles, changing the wiper blades is something you can do yourself, and any auto parts shop should be able to help you find the right wiper blades for your vehicle.

10. Be Aware of Winter Driving Hazards

Winter conditions mean extra driving hazards, and not just the typical hazards like black ice that most of us are already aware of. For example, an exhaust pipe that’s blocked by snow and ice can clog, forcing carbon monoxide into the vehicle’s interior. Carbon monoxide can also be a concern if you’re warming up your vehicle in an enclosed area like a garage; make sure there’s a way for exhaust fumes to safely escape any time you’re warming up your vehicle. Idling your engine also wears down your engine faster and eats up fuel and engine oil, so it’s a good idea to keep idling to a minimum in the winter anyway.

In order to help drivers keep their vehicles running strong all winter, EconoLube provides a full range of winterization services from battery diagnostics to cooling system services – in short, everything you need to get your car ready for winter. To find out more about how we can help you with winter vehicle maintenance, visit our services page or give us a call at 780-962-1593 and ask about our winter car care services.

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