Winterization Tips: Auto Maintenance Needed Before Cold Weather Hits

    October 25, 2013

Whether we like it or not, the winter months are approaching quickly. It’s never too early to prepare for cold weather, and automotive maintenance is key when it comes to our beloved vehicles.

  • Check antifreeze. Determine the effectiveness of your antifreeze. A tool to measure this is available at your local auto part store. It’s normally labeled as a coolant mixture tester and it measures how low the temperature outside can get before antifreeze no longer does its job or at the point that it freezes. Be sure that yours is remaining in a safe temperature range so as not to get stuck somewhere cold or damage your vehicles engine.  

  • Inspect hoses. During colder weather, your engine becomes very cold when the engine is off, then heats up when running. This causes expansion and contraction of engine hoses, and components, which can cause a leak or blown hoses.  A simple visual inspection and a squeeze of the hoses (looking for bumps or soft spots) can insure that they are in proper working condition. 

  • Check tire pressure and tread. Especially if you don’t use snow tires, make sure tread is in good shape (over 6/32”) for slippery roads. This can be done with a penny; place a penny into several grooves on your tire, the top of the Lincoln Memorial should always be covered.

    • If you are one of us folks who switches your tires out with dedicated snow tires for the winter, I would recommend using an anti-seize lubricant on all wheel lugs to prevent corrosion and rusting, especially if you are running snows on a separate set of steel wheels without hubcaps or wheel covers.

More uses for anti-seize lubricant on your engine.

  • Top off windshield washer fluid. Many of us understand how important having windshield washer fluid can be when snow, rain and the always popular “wintry mix” is covering our vehicles. Keep a spare jug in the trunk and never use hot water on your windshield to clean it or defrost it; this could cause the glass to crack.

  • Keep your trunk stocked with an ice scraper and brush, small shovel, blanket, flashlight and lock de-icer. In college, I used a cassette tape when I forgot an ice scraper, so if you’re in a bind, be creative. 

  • Check battery. If the battery is already weak, a good cold night can be just the thing to put it over the edge of failure.  Today’s modern ignition systems can take a great deal of electricity to function properly.  Sometimes a failing battery will have enough voltage to turn the engine over, but not enough to also make the ignition work properly.  Over the years I had heard the noise about how a bad battery can also cause your alternator to wear out faster.  Alternators charge the battery based on a signal received from the battery when charge is required, so a dying battery means the alternator is working over-time and eventually will burn-out.

    • Assuming your battery is in good working order, it’s a good idea to clean the connections and to coat them with dielectric grease to protect from salt, dirt and corrosion.

More on using dielectric grease.

    • Be sure to test your battery under load conditions.  Many batteries will show as holding a charge, and maintaining correct voltage while at rest, however when you turn the key to start your vehicle the battery does not have the voltage reserve to perform as needed.  Most garages can check you battery under load conditions to insure that it will function when the cold weather comes.

  • Check all lights. Take a walk around your car and make sure all the lights are working properly. If you have a headlight flickering or completely out, don’t only change one headlight; be sure to change both headlights.  Changing one light only often leads to excess voltage from the new more efficient light now burning out the other older less efficient light.  You just end up doing the second light at a later point in time.  Always change the headlights on both sides!  It will save you time in the long run.

  • Exhaust leak? If you have an exhaust leak, the time to fix it is now. Check out: Saving Money on Automotive Maintenance; Exhaust Leaks Problems & Repairs.

All of these winterization tips and vehicle repairs require minimal time investment and only a couple of tools/products. Most can be easily done at home.

Hopefully these tips will save you time, money and worries in the future. Thanks for reading and comment below if you have tips of your own to share!

About the Author, Loren Nauss

Loren Nauss is currently Business Development Manager for maintenance chemicals at Henkel. In his 24 years of experience, Loren brings expertise in everything mechanical to his personal and work-related projects. Loren's built, assembled and fabricated American and foreign cars, trucks, motorcycles, manufacturing, processing, and pumping equipment. He earned a Bachelors Degree in Business from Eastern Connecticut State University.

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One response to “Winterization Tips: Auto Maintenance Needed Before Cold Weather Hits”

  1. Cheryl Smith says:

    Thank you for the winter maintenance tips. I agree with not using hot water on your windshield during the winter. I did this and cracked my window. Hopefully, this year, I will not have that expensive repair.

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