How To Set Up Your Daily Driver For The Slippery Winter Roads While Dodging The NHTSA “Facts & Figures” Sheet.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, over 116,800 people are injured from traffic-related incidents due to snowy, slushy, icy, and wet roads. With rear-end collisions being the most common and factors ranging from driver error, driving while impaired, driving while fatigued, and improper vehicle preparedness.
Although there are many factors to these statistics we can reduce the number of injuries by preparing your vehicle for the oncoming slippery months of the year. With over 30,000 pieces on your vehicle and not knowing where to begin can be overwhelming. Especially after your ride has been faced with overwhelming heat cycles and consistent stress on internal and external components after Summer.
While some pieces are crucial and must be replaced, other components tend to be indestructible. In this article, we will be covering everything you need to prepare your car before your winter season driving begins. After all, there is nothing worse than waking to a dead battery, spinning a rod bearing, blowing a head gasket, or even worse; become an NHTSA rear-end collision statistic.
WARNING: This article may get a bit technical. But none to worry it has been simplified for easy understanding. However, if automotive verbiage is not your strength and you are on the verge of Googling “auto repair near me” or “oil change near me” DONT! The team at Motor Car Doctors in Beaverton, Oregon has witnessed numerous Winter Prepare Projects finished incorrectly, resulting in unnecessary costly repairs. If you need a shop with over 45 years of experience and a team of ASE Certified technicians then Motor Car Doctors is the shop you need. You can give us a call at 833-596-2056 or request an appointment below.
The Never-Ending Jingle On “Watch That Oil!” and “Be On Top Of Your Oil Change.” Has Returned!
The day you get your first car you never hear the end of it. From friends, family, parents, and your preferred technician. It’s always the same jingle “Watch that oil!” or “Be on top of your oil.” But it’s not until you hear valve ticks on cold starts or rod knocks at high rpm you begin realizing these folks were right!
Oil is the blood of your engine, filtering the blood of your engine is an Oil filter. These two work in synch to keep your oil particle-free and keep your engine sludge free. However, as engine oil ages it becomes thin and no longer offers the same protection as it once did leading to catastrophic and expensive engine repairs.
During colder temperatures, engine oil thickens making it much more difficult to rise and lubricate the top end of your engine and minuscule machined oil galleys found in your crankshaft, camshaft, and piston rods. With cold starts being the most destructive portion of your engine’s life you’ll want to replace your oil with a 5W when the mornings begin hitting below 60 degrees.
Coolant Does More Than Keep Your Engine Cool & Happy.
Your engine is a grenade with a finger on the pin. The pin keeping it from becoming a fireball of shrapnel is coolant also known as antifreeze. Nevertheless, coolant does more than just keep your engine cool and happy. It also lubricates vital internals such as piston water jackets, cylinder heads, head gaskets and increases water pump and radiator longevity.
As coolant begins to age over time and the summers of topping your radiator off with water begin to take a toll on your Coolant/Antifreeze the beneficial properties that make it so important begin to vanish. Although during summer you won’t notice the disadvantage. Winter is a totally different beast.
Aged coolant no longer has the strength to withstand freezing temperatures which can lead to overnight freezing. In some cases, if it’s not totally frozen coolant can liquefy and keep your engine cool, however, during extreme conditions aged coolant can freeze and block all passageways to your radiator resulting in blown head gaskets, cracked cylinder heads, and some cases total engine overhaul from fused internals.
Keep in mind your water pump which circulates the coolant through the entire system is spun off an EPDM (Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer) serpentine belt. Most serpentine belts last 60,000 to 100,000 miles before rupturing. However, when signs become visible such as cracks, cold start whines, and discoloration Its highly recommended to have this replaced along with any rubber hoses that also are close to failure.
A/C, Visibility, And What Scientist Call A “Dew Point”?
Also driven by the serpentine belt is your A/C Compressor. To not overcomplicate the system this unit converts hot muggy air into cool, and clean breathable air. Under your dashboard is a blower motor with air ducts connected to your dash vents that help circulate the new air.
As you know by now A/C is the best invention man has ever created when you are stuck in traffic on a 90-degree day. Meanwhile, during winter A/C is the last thing on your mind. Which is understandable. Who wants cold air on a cold day? Give me the warmth right?
But when the outside temperature is freezing and the interior of your vehicle warm, your windows hit what scientists call a “Dew Point”. At this point, condensation builds on your windows, and visibility diminishes. When this occurs you can either open a window and risk having rainwater or snowfall seep into your interior electronics causing an array of malfunctions (European cars are notorious for this). Or switch on your A/C unit and watch the windows clear in a matter of seconds. I prefer the latter.
Since we are on the topic of visibility, you’ll definitely want to flush your washer fluid and add a de-icer to prevent frozen washer fluid. Not to mention verifying if your wiper blades are still operable.
Battery & Alternator: The Infamous King Of “Click”.
The last item in your engine bay that should be examined before the frosty season is also driven off of your serpentine belt and crucial to keeping your battery charged and electronic components fully operational.
Your alternator is an electrical generator built to ensure your ECU and various electrical components keep your vehicle running. When alternators reach their breaking point they have 3 functions of destruction.
• Alternators totally stop producing electrical power, passing all your vehicle’s electrical needs to the battery, causing an immediate battery drain leaving you stranded mid-journey.
• Alternators can also charge just enough to keep the vehicle running but the minute you shut down the car it will no longer start.
• Lastly, alternators can overcharge a battery creating a battery swell from electrolyte boiling deeming the battery totally destroyed and any surrounding pieces acid burned.
Ideally, before the temperature drops, you’ll want to bring your vehicle into Motor Car Doctors where the team can load test your battery and run a quick diagnostics on your alternator and starter health ensuring your charging system is prepared for the oncoming Winter season and avoid the infamous no start “Click”.
Putting A Stop To The NHTSA “Facts & Figures” Sheet!
Winter tires vs Summer tires. They look about the same beside thread patterns. They both rely on the same PSI but for some reason, Summer tires seem to never stick to the road during Winter. While Winter tires are rapidly consumed on the Summer roads. Is there something happening we can’t see with the naked eye?
Let’s begin with the tire compounds. Summer tires have a much shorter thread and tend to be way firmer. While Winter tires have deep threads and are way more flexible. But the real secret here is the Glass Transition Temperature.
The Glass Transition Temperature (GTT) is the metric used to calculate how freely molecules flow in the tire. These molecules are what make a tire stick to the road. In order to activate these molecules, a tire must be warmed to its specific operating temperature.
For example, a Summer tire below 45 degrees will have a hard time activating these molecules resulting in horrible traction. However, a Winter tire’s GTT is much lower and can be activated at 60 degrees below zero allowing the molecules to flow and create a sticky surface keeping you planted on the road.
Because Winter tire molecules are activated much quicker during the summer months Winter tires can become gummy from so much free flow and quickly crumble on hot asphalt resulting in premature tire wear.
TECH TIP: Always keep an eye on your tire PSI. The first cold spells can drop your PSI 5 pounds instantly! Causing less traction, handling, drivability, and most of all your safety at higher speeds.
It goes without saying how vital your brakes are in all weather conditions and consistent check-ups when your vehicle is taken in for maintenance should be essential in your technician’s diagnostic.
Typically your tech will verify brake pedal feel. Ideally, you want a firm pedal that comes up immediately. Anything mushy, spongy, or late to respond should be marked for further inspection.
He’ll then check all four calipers (few modern vehicles rely on rear drums, in those cases, it would be drum brakes and wheel cylinder checks.) for brake pad health and brake fluid leaks. If current brake pads are at about 3-4mm thick it’s best to change them out for a new set. New brake pads tend to be 8-12mm thick.
Finally, your tech will check your brake fluid viscosity. Because brake fluid is an oil it’s very rare for it to freeze however, old brake fluid may collect moisture over time which can lead to brake fluid freezing or excessive drag after you’ve released the brake pedal.
Your Last Step To Winterizing Your Ride.
By now you know exactly what your car needs for the freezing months ahead. Just to recap; Oil Change, Coolant Flush, Serpentine Belt, A/C System Check, Wiper Blades, Washer Fluid Flush & De-Icer, Battery & Alternator Load Test, Winter Tires, and Brake Check.
Now that you know what you need you can do a quick google search for “auto repair near me” or “oil change near me” and hope the shop knows what they are doing. Or you can bring your car to Motor Car Doctors! With over 45 years of experience and a team of ASE Certified Techs, you can never go wrong bringing your vehicle in for its Winter Inspection.
The complete winter inspection can take up to 45 mins to 1 hr. When the inspection is through your tech will send you an AutoVials Digital Vehicle Inspector diagnosis directly to your phone where you can visually see images and descriptions of the reparations needed giving you a 10,000 ft unfiltered view.
If you have any questions or would love to schedule your inspection simply give us a call at 833-596-2056 or request an appointment below!