Tech Tip - January 2008

Carter Automotive
107 West 11th Street
Coffeyville, KS 67337
Phone: (800) 225-4813 (620) 251-4700
FAX: (620) 251-2215

Routine maintenance important in winter, too!

Performing routine car maintenance in the winter time obviously takes quite a different attititude than doing the same work in the Spring or Fall. Who wants to be out crawling around their car in the frigid weather or hosing it down at the local car wash with icicles growing off their nose?

But, the fact is, you're still racking up miles in the winter time and your car needs you just as much or more for scheduled maintenance at the routine service intervals shown in your owner's manual.

  1. Salt, salt, rust: It's a well known combination and virtually unavoidable. You have to get out in the bad weather and the road crews use the cheapest thing available to keep the slush from turning to ice. The result is your vehicle now dries to a pasty white color even if it was blue, back or green! The key to dealing with salt is to get your car or truck through the automatic car wash as soon as all the roads dry out. It only takes a few minutes, a few dollars, and will get 90% of the corrosive material off your paint and undercarriage until the next storm rolls through. Save the detailing and bucket washing for nicer weather, but do wash off the salt from time to time throughout the winter.
  2. Oil change: You vehicle's oil actually sees bigger temperature swings in the winter than in the summer. This is because your engine always gets up to the same operating temperature via the thermostat, but in the winter, it cools down much more in between runs than in the summer. What does this mean in terms of maintenance? Condensation, sludge and viscosity changes. Most manufacturers recommend running a multi-grade oil year round, but some specify a thinner oil in the winter to improve cold start lubrication. Having your mechanic do an oil change before winter sets in and putting in the right grade oil will make your engine happier. Rapid hot and cold cycles and large temperature swings also promote the formation of condensation (water) and sludge formation in your engine. It is very important to adhere closely to your oil change service intervals during the cold winter months. Don't feel like changing your own oil when it's cold outside? The friendly mechanics at Carters will be happy to make your car happy in their heated shop!
  3. Antifreeze check: The strength of your antifreeze in your radiator determines the freezing point of the mixture. When the mixture is too dilute and it freezes it expands causing cracks to form, then when the engine over heats it melts the liquid and causes it to drain out. This is not what you want when you are parked in an empty parking lot or driving down a lonely, deserted road in the cold of winter. Your mechanic can check the specific gravity of your antifreeze to make sure it is able to withstand the coldest temperatures we are likely to see in this area. It is also important to fully drain, flush and replace your coolant according to the manufacturer's intervals to make sure the anti-corrsion additives are fresh and still working. If you do need to add water to your radiator because the mixture is too strong (too much antifreeze), always add distilled water so the minerals from tap water do not build up, plate out, or cause corrsion on the inside of the coolant system.
  4. Tire pressure: Your tire pressure changes by about 1psi for every 10 degrees in temperature change. That means a tire properly aired up to 32 psi at 90 degrees will have only about 24 psi in it when the temperature drops down to the single digits. This is noticeable and can cause excess tire wear, decreased handling and traction and excess fuel consumption. The same tire that is properly aired up in winter can be 10 psi overinflated when the air warms up in Spring. Do yourself and your tires a favor and check the pressure monthly. It only takes a few seconds while at the gas station fueling up. (Don't forget the spare!)
  5. Belts: Cold weather is hard on belts. The shrink, crack and aren't as flexible as the temperature drops. You do not want your engine's belts to fail during the cold, winter weather. Carry a spare that fits your car, or make sure the belts are replaced by your mechanic at the specified service interval.
  6. Battery: January's featured product is Federated Batteries. Why not take your car by and have the battery tested to make sure it is up to par. It will give you peace of mind to know that your battery is up to the job or that you can get a great deal on a brand new Federated battery to keep your car running along during the cold winter months.

Winter maintenance is important and it's a job we are all likely to put off when the weather is poor. Your mechanic has the right tools and the right parts to make sure the work is done right. Let the service team at Carter's help you out now and you'll be glad you did!

Print me and take me to one of the 6 Carter Automotive locations in SE Kansas. Our friendly and knowledgeable counter staff will help you find the perfect parts for your application at the right price.