Prepare Your Car for Winter
At Sant Automotive, we believe in your round maintenance; that said, care preparation falls into four major categories: heating & cooling, battery and charging systems, and tires. Other concerns include, but are in no way limited to: windshield wipers and windshield washer systems, lighting and suspension.
The heater on your car is directly related to the efficiency of your vehicle’s engine cooling system. Your heater uses heat generated by the engine to heat the passenger compartment of your vehicle. If your engine is not cooling properly, neither will your heater. To insure that your cooling system is functioning properly, make sure that your car’s thermostat is opening and closing at the proper time. Check your owner’s manual or contact Sant Automotive or your local parts store to determine the rating of your vehicle’s thermostat. The “original equipment” specification for a thermostat is generally around 200 degrees. Next, start your engine and watch your engine temperature gauge. Once the gauge approaches the stated thermostat temperature, the thermostat should open, and you should see the indicated temperature on the gauge drop. This indicates that your thermostat has opened. As your engine warms, the gauge should rise, and the cycle should repeat itself. If your engine does not reach the proper operating temperature, it will also not generate enough heat for the passenger compartment. In addition to making you cold and preventing your defroster to work properly, an engine that does not reach proper operating temperature will not run as efficiently. This will cost you money in terms of fuel. Also, this could cause your “check engine light” to illuminate. As we all know, a vehicle with an illuminated “check engine light” will not pass an emissions test, it will burn excessive fuel, and it will damage your car’s catalytic converter (and they are expensive.) Other aspects of the cooling system that should be checked include belts, hoses, radiator, and condition of coolant. These are all items that are typically checked during the normal course of business by auto repair shops as part of a routine oil change service. On a final note, if the condition of your coolant exhibits improper chemistry, for example if the nitrate and or pH levels are slightly off, it may be possible to hold off on changing your coolant by just adding a coolant fortifier. BG Services has a product called SuperCool that can extend the useful life of your coolant/anti-freeze while still protecting your engine’s cooling system.
Battery & Charging System
It takes a stronger battery to start your car in cold weather than it does in warm weather. If you don’t believe me, Google “Auto Repair Shops Near Me” once it gets cold, and ask whomever answers how their battery sales are going. Batteries in this area of the country generally last a little longer than three years. If your battery is more than three years old, think about replacing it. As with cooling system checks, battery testing is generally part of a routine oil change service, and your auto mechanic should test your battery every time you are in. Checking battery terminals and cables is also part of a routine oil change. Corrosion increases the resistance of your cables meaning that it makes your starter less likely to work properly, especially in colder weather. Further, corrosion will cause you’re your terminal ends to fail, and this could necessitate replacement of your battery cables as well as your terminals and battery.
Regardless of the health of your vehicle’s battery, battery terminals, and battery cables, your car will not start for long if the alternator is not properly charging the battery. For this reason, it is important to have your vehicles charging system tested periodically. We recommend an annual test.
The final item that we will address is tires. Worn tires will obviously not provide the traction required on wet or icy services, but other considerations are important, too. Make sure that your tires are properly inflated. Tires will lose pressure in colder weather, so be sure to check them periodically. Any tire shop near you will recommend checking and adjusting tire pressure monthly. Next, consider the age of your tires. Tire manufacturers’ opinions about the useful age of a tire vary, but most agree that tires should be replaced, at least every six years, and all manufacturers of whom we are aware recommend replacement at least every 10 years. Tires deteriorate with age. This causes dry rot and cracking which will lead to serious problems.
Finally, we mentioned windshield wipers and lighting. The necessity of these should be self evident, so we won’t bore our readers with a long dissertation on the subject. Wiper blades should be replaced every six months. When the weather is nice, check them to make that there are no tears in the rubber elements, that they do not skip across your windshield, and that they do not smear. If they do any of these things, replace them immediately. Also, make sure that your washer fluid reservoir is full and that the squinters work properly. Dirty windshields are never fun. They are even less fun in bad weather. Suspension systems, tires and brakes are part of the “safety triangle.” If all are working well, your car will handle better, your vehicle will be less susceptible to damage from potholes, and your stopping distances will be shorter.
That’s all the time we have for now. If you’d like more information, please call Sant Automotive at 314-849-2900. Thanks.