Top Four Winter Car Maintenance Mistakes
In many parts of North America, winter can sneak up on you. Before you know it, temperatures are dipping, and harsh weather is setting in with snow, ice, sleet and wind. It’s crucial to get up to speed on winter car maintenance before the elements get the best of your vehicle.
To keep your car on the road and out of the repair shop, avoid making these four common winter car care mistakes:
1. Extended Engine Warm-Ups
It’s true, a cold engine provides uneven and poor combustion. The best way to warm it up is to let it idle for about 30 seconds before putting it in gear, then gently driving your car for a few blocks until everything is running smoothly.
One of the most common winter car maintenance mistakes is to let the engine idle for a prolonged period of time. This winter warm-up routine can do more harm than good, as it negatively impacts the catalytic converter. Leaving your car idling wastes fuel, is terrible for the environment and can diminish fuel efficiency.
2. Taking Tire Pressure for Granted
Cold temperatures compress air, resulting in reduced pressure in your tires. One of the first rules of winter car maintenance is to check your tire pressure regularly — at least every week and always before driving a long distance.
Consult your owner’s manual for factory recommended PSI levels for front and back tires, and remember to gauge the PSI when the tires are cold. If you’ve been driving, the air heats up and expands to elevate the pressure level temporarily. While you’re there, check the tires to make sure you have enough tread. If you live in an area that gets a lot of snow, it’s wise to switch to snow tires that have wider gaps in the tread design for better traction on slick winter roads.
3. Clearing Your Windshield the Wrong Way
When it’s cold and snowing, you want to get out of the elements and into your car as quickly as possible. However, take the time to properly remove snow and ice from your vehicle, especially the windshield. Use a scraper and clear the glass entirely from top to bottom.
Don’t try to remove snow and ice with your windshield wipers. This can damage your blades and potentially overload the motor. You also want to avoid using hot water to de-ice car windows. The sudden, dramatic change in temperature can result in fractures and cracks in the glass.
4. Letting Your Gas Gauge Dip
It’s never a good idea to run on empty, but that’s especially true in the winter. The emptier the tank, the more air that can get in, introducing moisture that can freeze. It’s also wise to winterize your gasoline engine with a fuel additive designed to keep the system dry and remove existing water.