Cold weather has a funny way of exploiting the mechanical weaknesses of a vehicle. The deficiencies of conventional lubricants, poor tires and weak batteries are suddenly brought to the fore as the temperature drops. Old man winter preys on the unprepared and delivers a harsh punishment to those who haven’t had the foresight to winterize their vehicles and equipment. Haven’t we all been there a time or two? Let’s look at a few basics that can transform your car into a machine that may look like an ordinary vehicle on the outside, but inside has the traits of some type of winter-conquering-juggernaut that you would only see in the movies (OK maybe we’re overstating things slightly).
We recently put up an article on the main site called Dependable Cold Weather Performance which showcases the spectacular winter capabilities of AMSOIL Synthetic Lubricants in engines, differentials and transmissions. Conventional oil is all but useless at -35 and frankly knowing what we do about synthetics, we wonder why conventional products are even sold in the northern hemisphere! But alas, old habits die hard. Synthetic lubricants are not just a winter specialty item, conversely they offer cooler operation and outstanding protection in summer heat. As the article mentions, synthetics should be installed in transmissions and differentials as well. These components require rare service, so why not do it right? Another important subject is the use of fuel additives in winter, specifically in diesels. An anti-gel additive should be used at all times.
We’ve long been a huge proponent of winter ice radials. If you have ever driven a vehicle equipped with true winter tires, you know that they make a world of difference on ice and snow. Honestly folks, this is as close to a no-brainer as they come. Not only is your vehicle’s ability to accelerate, maneuver and brake 1000% better, your vehicle is now safer by an order of magnitude. To refer to a tire as “all-season” is really a misnomer. All-season radials are a huge compromise in winter and start to lose braking capabilities at +7C as the tire compound starts to harden. Here is a Wheels.ca article that discusses the latest on this subject.
Yes that square thingy under the hood the we don’t give a second of consideration all summer. Cold weather weakens your battery’s cranking power and kills batteries that have reached the end of their lifespan. If your battery seems to be cranking slower than normal early this winter (and if the terminals are clean!), have it tested and changed out if necessary. If your battery is sound, consider installing a battery blanket to maintain cranking power. Simply plugging in your block heater will not warm your battery. At -18C, your battery is putting out just 40% of the cranking power that it would be at +25C. If you really need to get going at -35C, this addition is a big help. If you are in the market for a new battery, there is some advanced technology out there that can improve reliability in extreme climes. Orbital or spiral cell batteries such as those offered by Exide and Optima, are more resistant to cold temps then traditional wet-cell batteries. They last longer and simply withstand abuse better than traditional batteries. This technology should be considered if you are looking for the utmost in starting reliability. Here are some related articles:
Have your coolant tested. Antifreeze can lose its ability to fight corrosion, prevent freezing and resist boiling over time. Have a shop test your antifreeze and if it never been replaced, just go ahead and have a flush performed.
Check your block heater before it gets cold. Plug in your vehicle and listen closely as you should hear it working.
Treat your door seals with silicone spray or rubber/vinyl protectant. This will keep your doors from freezing after a car-wash.
Keep a close eye on your tire pressures as we get settled into winter. As the ambient temperature drops, so does the psi in your tires.
We hope that some of these tips can reduce the possibility of automotive grief for you this winter.