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Maintaining Your Vehicle Throughout the Colder Months

Submitted by Peter J. Leiss on March 13, 2013 – 2:05 pm 2 Comments

If you live in an area affected by winter weather, hopefully you prepare your vehicle for the winter several months before the cold weather arrives. Here are several critical vehicle systems that require special attention during the winter.

Tire Pressure
Weekly checking and adjusting of your tire pressure is recommended year-round, but is especially important in the winter months when lower air temperatures cause lower tire pressure.

Maintaining proper tire inflation is critical for vehicle safety. Both traction and vehicle handling are adversely affected by improper inflation. Proper tire inflation can also reduce your likelihood of experiencing a blowout, which is commonly caused by under-inflation.

Tip: If your TPM light is on when you start driving and it turns off as you drive and your tires warm-up, your tires are not properly inflated.

Tip: Tire pressure should be checked prior to the vehicle being driven. Even a couple miles on the road can raise the pressure a few PSI.

Not only does proper inflation help keep you safe, it also keeps money in your wallet through better fuel economy and longer tread life.

Tire Replacement
Tip: If you have replaced tires in sets of two, instead of four, it is essential that the better tires are fitted to the rear of the vehicle; this holds true regardless which wheels drive your vehicle (e.g. FWD, RWD, 4/AWD).

Battery
Cold weather diminishes the amount of energy your vehicle’s battery can provide. At 0° F, a battery can output only 40 percent of the energy available at 80° F.

Other factors can also contribute to the demise of vehicle batteries in the winter. Shorter periods of daylight lead to prolonged headlight use and freezing temperatures increase the use of defrosters and heated seats. Idling engines for warm-ups and short trips both reduce electrical production and deplete the battery’s state of charge.

Tip: You can prevent battery replacement by keeping your car in a garage out of the cold, limiting accessory use during trips, and inspecting and cleaning the battery terminals to prevent corrosion build-up.

Tip: If you notice your headlights or interior lights dimming at a stop and brightening on the move, your alternator may be failing. Have the charging system checked by a professional.

Motor Oil
Modern vehicles typically do not call for a different weight of oil for cold seasons, but you should consult your owner’s manual to be certain.

Tip: Never use a different weight oil in your vehicle than what the Manufacturer specifies (i.e. 5W-20, 10W-30, 0W-40).

If your driving habits are mainly short trips, more frequent oil changes in the winter are recommended.

Tip: Allow your vehicle to warm-up fully during cold weather; this aids the oil in expunging moisture, thereby extending its useful life.

Wiper Blades
Wiper blades are susceptible to drying and tearing during the winter due to frost, snow, ice, and lower humidity levels.

Tip: Watch for streaking and skips as the rubber dries and becomes brittle. Replace them as needed.

Air Conditioner
Air conditioning matters in the winter. When you operate the HVAC system in defrost mode, the air conditioner removes moisture and prevents fog and condensation from building up on the inside of your windows.

Tip: If your vehicle cannot keep the windows clear from fog and condensation, your air conditioning system may have the incorrect amount of refrigerant and needs service.

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