15 Winter Car Care Tips

Posted on December 20th, 2012 by Rob Marshall

15 Winter Car Care TipsAs the temperatures plummet, the Internet starts to bristle with cold weather driving tips but few hints exist to encourage car longevity and reliability, during the harsh winter months.

Here is GEM’s contribution:

1.   Prior to making a cold start in sub-zero temperatures, leave the ignition on for approximately five seconds, before activating the starter motor. This will allow fuel pumps time to pressurise and the car’s electrical system will have the chance to complete any diagnostics check first, saving the battery the extra stress of performing these tasks while it has to churn the engine over.

2.   During starting, depress the clutch pedal. This ensures that the starter motor does not have to rotate the gearbox shafts within cold and thick transmission oil. The result is less stress on the battery and starter. Once the engine has started, release the clutch pedal slowly.

3.   Never rev the engine, by ‘blipping’ the throttle, immediately after a cold start. When cold, engine oil takes longer to reach the moving parts and so revving the engine needlessly will increase wear rates, as well as wasting fuel. Never run the engine in an enclosed space, the exhaust gases are still poisonous even on the most modern of vehicles.

4.   Do not subject a cold engine to heavy loads immediately. Once started, allow the engine to idle for at least ten seconds with no load, prior to selecting a gear.

5.   Engine oil has to be at an optimum temperature to offer the fullest protection. Therefore increase engine revs and load progressively as the engine warms. Note that lubricating oil takes longer to reach its ideal working temperature than coolant does.

6.   Transmission oil is also thicker at lower temperatures and you might find that some lower gears (usually first and second) will be harder to engage at speed, until the transmission warms thoroughly. Double-declutching can help.

7.   Turn off any electrical accessories as soon as you do not need them. Leaving high-current sapping items engaged, such as heated rear windows, mirrors and seats, deprives the battery of current that could be used to recharge it.

8.   If you cover many short journeys, it is possible that your engine never gets the chance to warm up fully during winter. If your average journey length is under a few miles, take your car for an extended drive at least once a fortnight, at speeds in excess of 45mph, assuming the conditions are safe enough to do so. This will give the battery more chance to recharge and, if fitted, will allow the particulate filter to regenerate on diesel cars.

9.   The dirt on your paint can abrade the surface if anything brushes past it. Therefore, wash your car regularly. Direct a hose beneath the wheel arches and under the floor, to help remove any corrosive salty deposits. Cleaning alloy wheels is a vital way of reducing the risk of corrosion taking hold.

10. Ensure that the engine coolant contains anti-freeze strength of between 30% and 50%. If the concentration is too low, the engine could freeze. If too high, the effectiveness of the solution to disperse heat is minimised.

11. Keep the screen wash bottle topped up and use the right concentration of solution. The most effective screen washes were evaluated in this recent GEM test. Driving with an empty bottle is illegal.

12. Be very wary of driving through deep water. On many engines, the air intake is located low down and, should any water be sucked into the engine, severe damage is likely. Similarly, allowing flood water to soak the carpets could be enough to ruin the electric components that are located on or near the floor-pan.

13. Allow the windscreen wipers time to park and switch the column stalk to its ‘off’ position, prior to alighting. Should the wipers be operated upon your return and they are frozen to the windscreen, a fuse might blow. Alternatively, you could damage not only the wiper blades but also the motor and its mechanism.

14. Tyre pressures will reduce as the external temperature drops and you should check them at least once-a-week. Running under-inflated tyres will not enhance grip either. Although the minimum legal tread depth is 1.6mm, tread that has fallen to below 2.0mm will have seriously-reduced grip in wet conditions.

15. Finally, open the bonnet and check that dead and rotting leaves are not blocking the interior air vents. Should the cabin become misted, use the air conditioning. This will not only help to defog the interior but using air-con regularly helps to maintain it in an optimum condition.