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When the thermostat drops, we start wearing coats to protect ourselves from the cold, but most people don’t realize that their vehicles also need some extra protection during the winter. A few quick steps are all it takes to help your vehicle perform its best this winter.
“Motorists in much of the country face harsh weather conditions each winter,” said racecar driver and Be Car Care Aware spokesperson Kelly Williams. “The thought of a breakdown, an engine not starting or otherwise being stranded is stressful as it is, but those things happening in freezing winter weather adds another level of threat. An investment of an hour or so to have your vehicle checked is all it takes to have peace of mind and help avoid the cost and stress of a breakdown during harsh weather.”
Battery – Very cold temperatures will reduce a vehicle’s battery power so it’s important to keep the connections clean, tight and corrosion-free. Unfortunately, batteries don’t always give warning signs before they fail completely. If your vehicle’s battery is more than three years old, it’s wise to replace it. When choosing a replacement, make sure the new one has adequate capacity for your exact make and model.
Antifreeze – While the owner’s manual will have usage specifications for antifreeze, the mixture of antifreeze (coolant) and water inside your vehicle’s radiator is typically 50:50. When properly mixed, antifreeze and water provide excellent anti-boil, anti-freeze and anticorrosive properties. As a reminder, don’t make the mistake of adding 100 per cent antifreeze. Coolant should be flushed and refilled at least every two years in most vehicles.
Oil – Car Care Canada recommends changing to low-viscosity oil in winter, as it will flow more easily between moving parts when cold. Drivers in sub-zero driving temperatures should drop their oil weight from 10-W30 to 5-W30 as thickened oil can make it hard to start the car.
Some other quick tips:

  • Keep the gas tank at least half full, decreasing the chances of moisture forming in the gas lines and possibly freezing.
  • Tire pressure should also be checked, as tires will lose pressure when temperatures drop – consider special tires if snow and ice are a problem in your area.
  • If you’re due for a tune-up, have it done before winter sets in. Winter magnifies existing problems such as pings, hard starts, sluggish performance or rough idling.
  • Have the exhaust system checked for carbon monoxide leaks, which can be especially dangerous during cold weather driving when windows are closed.
  • It’s also good to allow your car a little more time to warm up when temperatures are below freezing to let the oil in the engine and transmission circulate and get warm.

    If you live in a place with especially harsh winter conditions, consider using cold weather washer fluid and special winter windshield blades.

    For more maintenance tips, see

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