Monday, January 16, 2012

Winter car care guide

Winter is slowly beginning to wreak havoc on our lives so now is the time to prepare your beloved vehicle for the cold snap. So no matter if you are driving a mini or a pickup truck below are a few tips to make sure that both you and the machine are adequately equipped to deal with any winter emergency.

Road Salt
With winter comes ice and with ice comes the onslaught of grit spreaders, helping to clear away hazardous ice. While this may seem a step in the right direction of batting away the dangers of winter, the road salt itself is an issue to contend with. The salt helps to reduce the freezing point of moisture on road surfaces and therefore stop it from forming into lethal ice. Salt also has the unwelcome attribute of speeding up the corrosion process of metal. Ensure you use a high quality sealant or wax on your cars bodywork from the autumn onwards to prevent salt causing erosion on your vehicle.

It is also a good idea to install mud flaps on your car to stop salt and debris being catapulted up and damaging the underneath of the car and causing erosion there where the unpainted parts are extra vulnerable.

If you notice that your wipers leave visible streaks or appear stiff then you can simply replace them with new ones, or rub them with rubbing alcohol or ammonia to resolve the problem. Ensure that you never use your wipers to remove stubborn bits of ice off the windshield! Use an ice scraper instead and save your wipers from damage. While parked up for the night in snowy/cold conditions it’s always best to leave your wipers in an upright position so that they do not freeze to your windshield and leave you stranded in the morning.

When the temperature drops engine oil thickens and makes the engine work harder to produce the same amount of energy. Check your car’s owners’ manual for the manufacturer’s recommendation – if in doubt use multi-viscosity oil that is marked as suitable for winter use.

Hoses and Belts
Ensure your care is healthy on the inside by waiting for the engine to cool down and checking on the hoses in the engine by pinching them. You should not find any bulges or soft spots – if you do this is a sign that something may be wrong and should be further investigated. Also check the engine for any cracks on the inner lining or worn spots on all belts. Seek assistance from a mechanic for further help.

The Battery
Open your bonnet and check the window on top of the battery to see if it is fully charged. If it doesn’t have the correct reading get it tested to see if it may be broken. Older, conventional batteries should have plastic caps on top the check their fluid levels. If you find the fluid level is low, add distilled water. After checking the health of your batteries you should also make sure to check that all the battery cables are securely attached to the terminals. Any battery older than five years old should be replaced.

It goes without saying that if you feel that your car pulls to one side when braking, or the car makes any unusual noises or vibrations, you should take it to a professional to be checked over.

Tires that have been partially worn down prevent your car from properly gripping the road in snowy conditions. By purchasing a set of specialised winter tires you can increase your cars grip as these tires have special tread patterns and compounds that are designed for these slipper road conditions.

Home Made Remedies
Preparing your car for winter does not always have to be expensive. There are several household items you can use to winter proof your car without incurring massive costs.

· Keep your petrol tank full – lower amounts in the tank make it more liable to freeze, even lowering its temperature can alter the efficiency of the car.

· Keep an emergency kit – a flash light, ice scraper, gloves, blanket, water, small snow shovel and road grit are all valuable items to have on hand when heading out in bad conditions. It’s better to be over prepared then run into trouble without anything to aid you.

· Defrost with Vinegar – Make up a bottle with 3 parts vinegar and one part water and spray onto your windows the night before. This will prevent ice build up and save you valuable time in the morning that would otherwise be spent de-icing

· Fog proof your car with shaving cream – Shaving cream contains many of the same ingredients that defogger contains and so makes an excellent cheap alternative.

Hopefully you’ll now have a better understanding of how to be fully prepared for when winter grips us all. We don’t all drive pickup trucks so prepare for snow now and when it comes you’ll be stress free and a whole lot safer in the future.

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