Automotive Advisers: Avoiding frozen fluids this winter
Your fingers and toes are not the only things that can freeze in these winter months—the cold weather can have adverse effects on various fluids in your car, which can be detrimental to your vehicle’s performance and, ultimately, your plans for getting around Shawnee.
The good news is that there are several easy precautionary steps you can take to protect your car’s components during the remaining winter months.
If you haven’t already prepped your ride for cold weather, you’ll want to focus on replacing and topping off various fluids for example, coolant, motor oil, wiper fluid and brake fluid.
Here’s a closer look at why this is so important.
To run, your car produces thousands of tiny explosions each minute, and it relies on the cooling system to control engine temperature.
Although it’s colder outside, you still need a proper cooling agent in your engine—namely, one that is better adapted for the cold weather.
Antifreeze (or coolant) with more water will freeze in your engine and could cause your radiator to crack and hoses to expand.
Switching to a formula that’s half antifreeze and half distilled water is one way to prevent freeze-ups under the hood.
And then there’s your motor oil.
Although oil doesn’t typically freeze, that doesn’t mean it is unaffected by cold. As the temperature drops, oil gets thicker and therefore cannot circulate efficiently, which can deprive your engine of the lubrication it needs to start.
To prevent hiccups, you’ll need to find the oil with the correct viscosity—be it thickness or thinness—for your winter needs.
Opting for a thinner oil, for example, using 5W-30 in place of 10W-30, in the colder months will help circulate oil through the motor with ease so you can hit the road as scheduled.
Remember, you do need to change the oil in your car about every 5,000 miles regardless, so your next service may be a good time to make an adjustment.
If you’re not sure what you need, we strongly recommend consulting the technicians at your repair shop for advice.
Your washer fluid is also something that demands seasonal attention.
Too much water in your washer fluid could cause the reservoir to crack and the wiper lines to freeze, potentially damaging the wiper motor. Having too much water in your wiper fluid can also result in a sudden and dangerous freeze-over of your windshield while driving fast in cold weather.
That’s why it’s important to swap your current wiper fluid mixture for a wintertime version.
Using a more concentrated solution is important, as is making sure you have a good supply of it on hand in your trunk or garage—that way you can top it off as needed, avoid winter precipitation buildup and clearly see the road.
Also, if your travel will take you to snowier areas with frequency, it may even be worth the upgrade to sturdier wiper blades to push snow out of your view.
Last but not least, don’t forget your brake fluid.
Brake fluid is responsible for many components in a vehicle’s braking system, and, in extreme cold temperatures, it risks becoming so thick that it can no longer do its job.
To avoid the frightening experience of a sudden brake failure on an icy road (rare but possible), you’ll want to make sure your brakes have been flushed according to your manufacturer’s recommendations—on average, every 30,000 miles.
There are many other precautions you can take to make your car a winter warrior, such as upgrading your tires for thicker tread, adding sandbags to your trunk for added traction (especially on rear-wheel-drive vehicles) or getting a battery check and replacing it if needed to ensure your engine starts every time.
Plus, it’s always a good idea to keep your gas tank on the fuller side. If you are not driving through intense winter areas, some of these efforts may be less critical.
But because you never know what could happen (and with the unpredictable weather that can strike the Midwestern plains), one precautionary step everyone should take is stocking the car with cold weather supplies such as an ice scraper and gloves as well as emergency gear, including blankets, a flashlight, flares, water and nonperishable snacks.
While Shawnee may generally experience milder winters, it’s always good to be prepared for the unexpected—be it a winter storm or last-minute road trips.
A few easy fluid switches and a couple of handy supplies will not only set you up for a smooth winter driving experience but will also give you peace of mind.
-Scott and Tammie Green own Christian Brothers Automotive, 22240 Midland Dr.