Winter and your car

Since we’re in the grip of a little cool spell here in New England (my phone said there was  a windchill of -7 when I walked to my car last night to drive home) I figured it’d be a good time to go over some basics of keeping your car ready for this kind of weather.

Battery.  Check your car’s battery.  If it’s old (in years more so than miles) you may want to replace it.  Whenever mine get around 5 or 6 years old I replace them regardless of miles.  Batteries are like tires – their performance can deteriorate due to age even if they aren’t used.  Got a multimeter?  Hook it up to the battery when the car isn’t running.  Make sure it reads around 12V.  Now start the car… it should read around 14V.

Wipers and windshield fluid.  Since it’s so eff-ing cold make sure you get the stuff that won’t freeze and will act as a deicer!  That and new wipers will save you from dirty salty windshields and from having to scrape off light frozen moisture that is a little too stubborn for the defroster.  Keep a jug of fluid in the trunk too…  I admit to having run out on the highway before and literally driving Ace Ventura style off the highway to first clean the windshield with snow then go to the nearest CAP to buy some fluid.

Other fluids, etc.  Make sure the simple things like your oil, coolant, transmission fluid, etc is all up to the proper level.  All of this ensures the car runs properly which is more important when it’s too cold to wait for AAA to come!  Some people use a thinner oil in the winter – I never have, but with the Subaru I have now I’m considering experimenting this winter.  In the etc category I’ll include belts.  The cold weather can be tough on them too.

Tires.  This isn’t really related to cold starts, but check your tire pressure, too.  Properly inflated tires not only give you better MPG but better traction when the flakes start falling.  Also, I typically run 3 – 5 lbs more than what the car maker suggests.  I always go by what the limits on the tire itself are.  For instance, Subaru I think tells me 32 lbs for each corner.  I’m currently running 38 lbs up front and 37 lbs in the rear.  Better mpg and I like the way it handles better as well!

Worst case scenario.  Aside from making the car run in the cold and snow, make sure you’re ready for that worst case scenario.  A blanket, hat, boots, gloves, etc are all good to keep in the car in case something really bad does happen.  Don’t forget to keep a flat board (plywood works) in case you need to change your tire on something other than clean pavement.


~ by NJC on January 24, 2011.

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