It’s hard to believe it’s November already. Are you and your car both ready for the cold weather? It’s not just a matter of staying warm inside your car as you drive through the snow or navigate icy roads. You need to make sure that your car can handle the chilly and sometimes slippery or visibility-limited conditions. There are a few things you can do every Autumn to keep you and your family safe on the roads in Winter.
Keep an emergency winter supply box in your car. Last month’s post enumerated everything that should be included in a well-stocked emergency car kit, so please refer to that post for the full list. Important winter-specific items should include an ice scraper and a small shovel; a carpet remnant, kitty litter, or sand for traction; blankets, gloves, and changes of warm clothes for you and your passengers; and some high-energy snacks like nuts, chocolate, and beef jerky. Other items that are important to have with you year-round include a flashlight (periodically check the batteries), an extra cell-phone charger, road flares, and a first-aid kit.
Keep your engine from freezing by monitoring your antifreeze and coolant mix. Antifreeze, as its name implies, keeps your engine from freezing in the winter months. If your coolant mix is diluted, your engine could freeze and leave you stranded. Being stranded isn’t fun at any time of year, but it can be really dangerous when it’s freezing cold outside.
The national average vehicle age is 11 to 12 years old. Most of our customers drive vehicles which were built in 2006 or later. These current vehicles use a year-around coolant (antifreeze) mix that is specific to groups of vehicles like Asian, European, GM, Ford, etc. The Euros further break it down to the year, make, and model, because their engineers can't stand building anything simple. :-)
That coolant mix is serviced between 30K and 150K miles, depending on usage and make and model. The coolant is normally serviced with an automotive variety of a dialysis machine and the used coolant is held in leak-proof containers until a recycler takes it away. Therefore, it is unlikely a current vehicle would have inadequate freeze protection.
However, the more likely scenario on these current vehicles is that the pH has become incorrect, the reserve alkalinity is dissipated, or the coolant has become conductive (for electrical current). All these issues cause damage to the engine and cooling system components other than freezing. See the difference between the old automotive technology versus the new automotive technology?
The vehicle owner would be hard pressed to find and buy the testing equipment to properly test the coolant. Then, there is the issue of disposal of a hazardous waste, and how to bleed the trapped air out of the system without a "lift" coolant tool.
Long story longer, bring your Asian, European, or American vehicle to CARS of America in Glenview or Evanston for a cooling system inspection before Winter is in full force.
Check your tire pressure and tread depth. Follow your car manual’s recommendations for pressure levels, and make sure your tires have sufficient tread. To check your tread depth, insert a penny into your tire’s tread with the top of Lincoln’s head pointing inward. Most tire shops advise that if Lincoln’s head isn’t hidden by the treads, your treads are worn and you should replace your tires as soon as you can. But, the average new tire comes with 10 to 11/32 of an inch of tread. When you can see Lincoln's forehead, you have 2/32 remaining. Most people living in snowy areas, like the Colorado Mountains, will attest to the fact that all-season tires start losing the grip in the snow at 50% tread, or 5 to 6/32nds.
Keep in mind that "tread" has two purposes on tires: 1) puncture resistance, 2) "pumping" standing rainwater from between the tire and pavement as the tire rotates. It is not all that helpful in snow. Ice and snow traction is accomplished by "tire compounding" which is the mix of natural rubber, synthetic rubber and oils. High mileage tires have lower traction properties than "winter/snow tires", which grip better but wear out sooner. Tire compounding degrades from exposure to UV and heat, so all tires can lose their grip at relatively low miles and quite a bit of remaining tread.
For folks that are really serious about winter traction, investing in a second set of wheels with winter tires for winter driving and all-season tires for the summer. This approach does create other issues: Storage of off-season tires and wheels, getting the dirty tires and wheels from the living room, or wherever they are being stored, into the back seat of the Corvette or Porsche, and over to the shop and back, twice a year. A pain in the butt, right?
Or, if you are lucky enough to have a full-service provider like CARS of America, with every set of tires purchased with our Pro Plan, we offer seasonal tire change, tire rotations, tire repairs, tire replacement if damaged beyond repair, and..... Off-Season Storage,*all at no additional charge.* You can’t beat that offer, now can you?
Use winter windshield wiper fluid in the cold months. The windshield wiper fluid you use in the non-winter months is not appropriate to use in cold, wintry climates like ours. In our freezing climate, the fluid will freeze as soon as it hits your windshield. Switch to winter fluid for the cold months. Winter fluid helps your wiper blades remove ice and snow from the windshield and will not freeze over.
We hope we’ve given you some ideas for how to get your car ready for winter. Are there other things you have found helpful for winterizing your vehicle? We’d love to hear from you. As the winter weather approaches, it’s always a good idea to have your car checked out to be sure you and your family will be safe on the roads around Glenview and Evanston. CARS of America would be glad to have your business. At CARS, you'll find friendly, top-notch professionals who deliver quality auto repair at affordable prices. We stand behind our repairs with a lifetime warranty. You’re welcome to stop by CARS of America in Glenview or Evanston; or visit us online at https://www.carsofamericainc.com/.