With colder weather coming, it’s a great time to start planning for any routine maintenance you may have put off. While it’s never advisable to disregard your car’s upkeep, the winter months can be brutal and accelerate wear and tear. Before the flurries fall, take a look at any service intervals that may be upcoming (or have already passed), and make note of any irregular sounds, vibrations, or handling characteristics that you may have otherwise simply adapted to.
From Summer to Snowfall, Car Maintenance and the Winter Ahead in Michigan
A car’s systems are myriad, but let’s examine a look at a few of the more common – and important – points of maintenance.
By far the most common component of vehicle upkeep, scheduled oil changes are critical to keeping you rolling. As you probably know, oil is your car’s lifeblood. Lesser known, however, is why one type of oil may be better suited than another, and how the cold weather can influence this choice.
Oil’s viscosity (thickness, essentially) is an important specification and worthy of consideration. While a thicker oil may better withstand the higher temperatures of summer driving, the cold will cause it to flow more slowly and possibly increase oil pressure. If in doubt, talk to your service professional.
Nearly all cars on the road today are liquid cooled. A liquid cooling system works by pumping coolant through small channels and conduits throughout the hottest points of the engine, before routing it through a radiator which then transfers the heat away from the car. Generally referred to as anti-freeze, coolant types differ between makes and models, but its purpose remains the same.
Anti-freeze is constantly subjected to extremely high temperatures and pressures, while at the same time resisting freezing in order to maintain its liquid state. During the summer, freezing temperatures are obviously not a concern. But as the mercury drops, anti-freeze must be resistant to freezing. Frozen coolant will restrict flow and could result in an engine running too hot, leading to possible engine damage no matter how cold it is outside.
A pre-winter inspection of your cooling system – belts, hoses, pump, and radiator, as well as the coolant itself, is a smart strategy for the maintenance conscious. Furthermore, an inspection of your car’s heater core (which uses hot coolant to keep you warm on a cold day) may save your teeth from chattering all the way to work should you start your day to the unpleasant surprise of a car with no heat.
Perhaps one of the most safety-centric areas of car maintenance, tires translate driver input to the road. Unsurprisingly, worn or damaged tires will compromise safety and handling. If you find yourself frequently topping off the pressure of a single tire, now’s the time to get it fixed. It won’t go away on its own. Carefully inspect your tires for any irregularities. Be mindful to look for any dry rotting in the form of small cracks, generally on the sidewall. Keep a close eye on tread depth, which will be noticeably shallow on tires at the end of their service life.
For those at the very top of their winterization game, a set of snow tires could pay dividends as the inches accumulate. While you’re at it, confirming proper wheel alignment and balance will keep things rolling smoothly. In short, tires should be at the top of the list for anyone’s winter prep.
Windshield Wipers and Window Defrost
If your windshield wipers are leaving streaks across the glass or not fully contacting parts of the windshield, they need to be replaced. There’s no way around this, and it’s going to get worse quickly when the rigors of winter set in. Windshield wipers are cheap and easy to install, and will yield a safer, more pleasant drive during inclement weather. It’s best to top off your wiper fluid too (and your fluid pump is working as it should, right?) as you’re likely to go through more of it during the winter months.
You’re going to be calling on your window defrost more often as the temperatures drop, and now is the time to ensure it works. Driving with obstructed windows is unsafe for you, your passengers, and anyone in the vicinity. Be sure to have these systems inspected if you’ve any doubt.
No mention of winter prep would be complete without a reminder of the necessities. Do you keep a flashlight, maybe even flares handy? You should. And stowing a couple of heavy winter blankets in the trunk could prove to be lifesaving should you find yourself stranded on a cold, remote road with help hours away. How about an extra bottle of windshield wiper fluid? It always runs out at the worst times. These days, cell phones are the norm, but these devices can still fail or run out of power. At the minimum, it’s a good idea to keep a phone charger handy. Couple this with a rechargeable powerpack should your car fail entirely, and you can drive with confidence knowing help is almost always a phone call away. Winter driving presents unique challenges, and it’s best to always be prepared.
Here at Good Care Auto, we’re gearing up for winter. We stock a wide range of snow and all-season tires, mounted and balanced using the latest computerized machines. Unsure whether you need the red coolant or the green? We’ve got you. Our ASE-certified technicians can help you select the proper application for your car, as well as perform a range of cooling system maintenance from top-offs to full flushes. Perhaps all you need is an oil change. We’ll change your worn-out summer oil with something ready to take you deep into this holiday season. At Good Care Auto, no job is too small. Give us a call today at (734) 285-1188 and let us be your winter experts!