Old Man Winter can be pretty hard on your car, especially if your car is enduring severely cold weather. Even though Arizona winters aren’t as cold as an Alaskan winter, the cooler weather can take its toll on your car.
How does winter affect your car?
For starters, it can be hard on the battery making starting your car more difficult, it can cause fluids to thicken, and force the air pressure in your tires to fluctuate considerably from varying temperatures throughout the day. In areas where snow and ice are prevalent, your car can also be affected by the salt used on the roads. Now that Punxsutawney Phil has declared not seeing his shadow, we may be in for an early Spring. Spring is the perfect time to breathe some life back into your car before the next harsh season, Summer, begins.
What does an after winter car service involve? Read on to find out!
1. Check Your Fluids
A) Oil – First and foremost, check your oil. Oil is the lifeblood of your car. Excessive friction places too much strain on the engine and creates heat. Engine oil reduces that friction, helps keep the engine from overheating and generally makes the engine operate more smoothly. When checking your oil, note that the level and consistency of the oil are most important. Note: be sure to check your oil when your vehicle is cold and on a level surface. Good, clean oil should appear smooth, glossy, and somewhat clear. Any signs of sludgy sediments or grainy specks of dirt, thick, opaque, or foul- smelling oil are a sign that an oil change is overdue.
B) Coolant – Check to make sure the engine has enough coolant so that it may aid in keeping the engine from overheating. Look for the coolant reservoir and note the level of the fluid whether the engine is cold or hot. Do NOT remove the radiator cap unless the engine is cold. If the coolant level is low, has particles of debris, has a foul odor, or has lost its vivid color (coolant comes in various colors such as green, blue, yellow, red or orange depending on vehicle manufacturer) the fluid has deteriorated and needs to be flushed.
C) Transmission fluid – Just as important as oil is for your engine, transmission fluid is vital to your vehicle’s function and should be checked as well. Transmission fluid acts as a coolant, lubricant, and cleanser to keep the transmission’s internal components functioning optimally. In addition to the three major fluids above, power steering, brake and wiper fluids should also be checked and topped off if low.
2. Check Your Tires
Cold winter air can cause your tires to deflate. Tire pressure drops about 1 PSI (Pounds per Square Inch) for every 10 degrees the temperature drops. Driving on under or overinflated tires is extremely dangerous, especially on wet roads. Properly inflated tires equate to better handling, shorter braking distances, better fuel efficiency, and extends the life of the tires.
It’s best to check the air pressure of your tires when the tires are “cold” in the morning, before they’ve had a chance to move and heat up. In addition to checking the air pressure, take note of the treads on the tires as well. Treads are what grip the road as your drive, preventing you from slipping, especially in wet weather. Tires with worn-down tread should be replaced right away.
Finally, make sure your tires are rotated about every six months and balanced once a year. By having your tires rotated often tire problems are more likely to be identified, such as unusual wear patterns that could indicate the wheels need to be aligned.
3. Have Air Conditioner Checked
Spring is the perfect time to have your A/C inspected before the heat makes its appearance. You can start by testing the system yourself, by just turning it on and observing what happens next. Does air come out of the vents? Do you notice any foul odors or noises?
Be sure to adjust the settings as well to ensure the system responds appropriately when you raise or lower the temperature as well as increase or reduce airflow.
If you notice anything unusual or you desire a more in-depth inspection, take your vehicle to the nearest Sun Devil Auto for a Free Air Conditioning Inspection.
4. Clean Windows & Check Wiper Blades
Driving with a dirty windshield could be dangerous. Anything that distorts your ability to see the road can affect your safety. We may not get a lot of snow in winter, but we do get plenty of rain and dust that can leave spots on your windshield in addition to other particles such as dirt, dust, and bug spatter encountered on the road.
Likewise, over time a film builds up on the inside of your windshield. This is a byproduct of the vinyl, rubber, and plastics used in the vehicle that produces a chemical gas when exposed to UV light, heat, and air.
5. Check Your Lights
No matter the time of year, you should check to ensure all lights on your vehicle are functional. Driving without lights can earn you a violation from law enforcement. Winter is typically the wettest time of year and if moisture from the elements gets trapped in the headlight housing, it could damage the ballast or corrode internal wiring, causing your headlight to quit working.
Turn on your vehicle’s lights and walk around it, noting any lights front or rear that may not be lit. In addition to head and taillights, check turn signals, reverse lights, high beams, and the license plate light. Wipe down the lenses with a soft cloth to clean them and to check for damage. Have damaged lights repaired immediately.
6. Test Battery
Cold weather has a negative effect on your battery. At 32 degrees Fahrenheit, the battery can lose up to 35% of its power and at 0 degrees Fahrenheit, the battery can lose up to 60%. While in the valley single-digit temperatures are rare, if you’re traveling to Northern areas of our state or elsewhere in the country, you may encounter them.
A battery that loses 60% of its power is troublesome because the engine requires double that amount of power to start. It’s possible that after a long winter of battling cold temperatures, your battery may have trouble maintaining a charge or is nearing the threshold where it won’t be able to start. Have your battery’s voltage level tested to determine its strength and replace it if it is weak.
7. Wash Your Car
Scrub a dub, dub get your car in the tub! Washing your car does so much more than making it look shiny and new again. It helps to prevent corrosion caused by contaminants that settle onto your car’s exterior and scratch the paint. Plus, by washing your car and taking good care of it, it will last longer and maintain its trade-in value. Wash your car regularly throughout the year, at least 1-2 times per month. At the start of winter, give your car a thorough cleaning and finish the process with a coat of wax to provide an extra layer of car paint protection during the winter months. As temperatures rise in the spring and summer, plan to do another deep cleaning and wax to prepare your car for the harsh summer.