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Winterizing your car to ensure maximum security and performance
Each year, the majority of the 21 million vehicles on Canada's roads face the winter season without being prepared. Winter is the most difficult season for your vehicle and motorists should, at a minimum, have an oil and filter change, as well as a multi-point inspection, before the winter driving season begins. Simply follow the steps below to prepare yourself for trouble-free motoring this winter.
The oil change is one of the most frequent and important maintenance points for a car. Most engine wear occurs on start-up because oil is at the bottom of the engine. It is critical to have oil pump to the top of the engine quickly to provide lubrication to the critical cam and valve-train components. This film of oil provides essential lubrication between the moving metal parts and results in reduced friction and engine wear.
In cold weather this is particularly important. Just think about how difficult it is to get out of bed on a cold winter's day. Now imagine your car, which has been parked in your driveway where temperatures can drop to -15ºC or colder!
The technology in today's modern lubricants and electrical systems allow your vehicle to start-up in harsh winter conditions; for example, a winter-blend synthetic oil is specially formulated to provide easier start-up, superior performance and reduced engine wear in cold weather compared to conventional motor oils.
In a vehicle, the engine generates temperatures of over 200°C (392°F) and even up to 300°C (572°F) when turbocharged. In addition to protecting your engine, oil prevents contact between metal surfaces, traps particles and combustion byproducts and plays a major role in the cooling process of the engine. It disperses up to 20% of engine heat.
If your cooling system has not been serviced for 12 months or 20,000 kilometres, ask your mechanic to perform a coolant flush and fill your vehicle's entire cooling system and install fresh quality antifreeze. Make sure your mechanic checks the reservoirs, belts, hoses, radiator cap and thermostat as well.
Battery and electrical system
Cold temperatures can take a toll on your battery. If your battery is more than 12 months old, ask your mechanic to have it load tested to make sure the cranking amps are at the right levels. This will ensure your vehicle will start on cold winter days. Make sure the connections are clean, tight and free of any corrosion.
A thorough inspection of your engine's performance is a good investment. If a tune-up is due, have it done before winter. Defective wiring, worn spark plugs, clogged fuel injectors or malfunctioning emission control systems can all lead to starting problems down the line. It is also a good idea to use a quality fuel to help keep fuel injectors clean. Fuel injectors must spray enough fuel into the engine's cylinders for proper starts on winter days.
Have your muffler and exhaust system inspected for cracks and leaks that can allow carbon monoxide into the passenger compartment. This is especially important during winter when windows are closed most of the time.
Have your brakes inspected to prevent your car from swerving when the brakes are applied. Worn disk brake pads and rear brake shoes can cause inconsistent braking and loss of vehicle control on icy roads.
Heaters, defrosters and wipers
Your sight is responsible for 90% of driving decisions, so check your windshield wipers, heater and defrosters to ensure they are in good condition. Consider using winterized wiper blades protected with a flexible rubber boot that prevents ice clogging which may impede visibility.
There are three main reasons for choosing winter tires:
Winter tire tread grooves are approximately 30% deeper and have much more bite than all-season tires. They also reduce stopping distances by up to 25% compared to all-season tires.
The tread pattern expels snow more easily.
Winter tires are made of softer rubber and are more flexible and efficient under cold temperatures.
All-season tires are made of rubber that starts to harden at temperatures under 7° C. At -15°C, they lose most of their elastic properties, which in turn diminishes traction. Winter tires only lose their elasticity at -40°C, which makes a big difference in traction and handling.
A tire can lose as much as one pound of pressure per square inch (psi) for each 5° C drop in temperature. For instance, tires inflated at 32 psi on a car parked in an 18°C garage will have a pressure of 31 psi at 12°C, 30 psi at 6°C, and so on. As well, even the most leak-proof tire can lose up to one psi per month. Always check your tire pressure to ensure optimum traction and handling.
Taking all these precautions does not protect you against every hazard. To prepare yourself for the unexpected, always carry an emergency kit in your trunk. Here's what it should contain :
First-aid kit and manual
Bottled water (pour off a bit of water so if it freezes, there's room for expansion)
Non-perishable food items
Cloth or roll of paper towels
Tire repair-kit and pump
Matches and a candle
Flashlight with extra batteries
Battery powered or hand-crank radio.
Preparing your vehicle for the winter driving season is imperative. By following these simple steps you can ensure you've done everything possible for a safe winter driving season.
These tips were provided by the Shell Lubricants division of Shell Canada Ltd., the supplier of V-Power gasoline, Quaker State motor oil and Rain-X wiper blades.
CarTest.ca. Posted Nov. 17, 2009