January 27, 2005

GM offers tips to start your car on the coldest days

Oshawa, Ontario – Each year, General Motors performs about 4,000 vehicle tests at their Cold Weather Development Centre in Kapuskasing, Ontario. “With temperatures at the centre getting as low as minus 40 or 50 degrees Celsius, our vehicles are really put to the test,” said John Healy, The GM Cold Doctor.

“Every vehicle in Canada is subject to the wrath of cold weather at this time of year, but there are some things you can do to protect your vehicle and have it start reliably even the coldest of mornings,” said Healy.

  • Engine Oil. The largest source of friction when starting a cold engine is from the oil. Change your oil and filter according to the Owner’s Manual Maintenance Schedule or the Oil Life Monitoring System if your GM vehicle is equipped with it. Ensure you have the right viscosity for the season.
  • Battery. Just like you, a battery doesn’t like to be too cold. Even a fully charged battery will start to freeze as the temperature approaches -40C. Battery terminals need to be cleaned and free of corrosion. Lastly, as a battery ages, it’s capacity to hold a charge decreases. If your battery is three to five years old and showing signs of aging, consider getting a new one.
  • Spark Plugs. Just like with the oil, always follow the Owner’s Manual Maintenance Schedule and use the recommended type and grade of spark plug.
  • Washer Fluid. Top up the fluid at least once a week and use a product recommended for cold weather.
  • Wiper Blades. Your wiper blades take a beating in the winter. Ice can build up quickly and slush on the window can reduce visibility. Good blades suitable for the winter are a necessity.
  • Fuel. The oil companies do a good job adjusting gasoline properties for cold starting. It’s a good practice to keep the tank at least half full for this reason and to help avoid water condensation. Adding fuel line antifreeze during extended periods of cold weather can avoid “freeze-ups”.
  • Tires. Save your skiing for the slopes. Your tires must have a safe tread depth and be inflated to the correct pressure. Cold temperatures can reduce tire pressure dramatically. Winter conditions require tires rated “M+S” for mud and snow.
  • Parking. If you have a garage, why not use it? A garage will provide shelter and a bit of warmth to make starting easier. Plus, you don’t have to scrape the windows.
  • Start Assist. If your vehicle has a block heater, use it along with a timer. Leaving it on all night isn’t necessary and wastes energy. Set it to turn on 1.5 to 2 hours before you leave. Your engine will start much easier and the electrical cost will be offset by the increase in fuel economy from a semi-warm engine. Turn off all accessories, such as radio and the heater, before you attempt to turn your car on. Once it is started, you can immediately turn accessories back on.
  • Take your time. Everything moves slower when it’s cold, especially traffic. Leave early if you can. Don’t try to make your commute time the same as in the summer. It’s better to arrive a little late than not at all.
  • Tune up. Ensure your car has received a winter tune up from a Goodwrench Specialist. Follow the semi-annual schedule GM recommends in its owners manual for inspection of items such as the restraint system, wiper blade check, weatherstrip lubrication, and hydraulic clutch system check.

“It is not only important for your car to be in good shape for the winter, but your driving skills must be up to par too,” said Tim Georgeoff, CEO and president, CAA North and East, who discussed the importance of being alert on the roads at a GM media event in Kapuskasing. “Motorists need to exercise caution when behind the wheel, reducing their speeds to allow more time to react. Remember that posted speed limits are for ideal driving conditions.”

GM recommends carrying an emergency kit in your vehicle at all times to keep you safe while on the road. This should include things such as a blanket and extra clothes, non-perishable food and non-alcoholic beverages, a first aid kit, flares, a shovel, and a beeswax candle with matches.

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