You wouldn't dream of facing winter's ice, snow and sleet without a coat, gloves and other cold-weather gear, would you? Your car deserves the same level of protection. This article will help you prepare your car to make it through a cold, wet winter season and a long, hot summer.
Your car is in for a tough time this winter. Your car's paint, tires, glass, plastic and other surfaces will be at the mercy of the elements, including wind, rain, sleet, snow, sand, gravel, cinders, salt and road oil. Fall is your best opportunity to inspect and prepare your car with a protective layer, giving your car a fighting chance. Your car's paint, tires, leather and rubber trim all need touching up in the fall, even if you have cared for them all summer.
If your car will be exposed to extreme winter conditions, the best protective coating is a good synthetic wax. Unlike carnauba waxes, a synthetic wax provides a modest amount of protection against water and road salts. The product I trust to hold up to winter's worst is Ultima Paint Guard Plus.
Your car is more likely to be scratched during winter due to all of the potential debris on the road. As moisture penetrates deep scratches and chips in your car's paint and repeatedly freezes and thaws, it weakens and eventually cracks the surrounding paint. This allows oxidation to rapidly set in. A quick and easy way to reduce oxidation caused by winter road damage is to wash your car as often as possible, and inspect for paint chips and scratches. When you find new paint chips, seal them with your synthetic wax.
Winter is also hard on leather interiors. Cold, dry air pulls the moisture from leather, so it's important to treat leather prior to the onset of freezing temperatures. Once the daytime temperature dips below 50 degrees (Fahrenheit), the leather will not accept conditioners. Although the surface will look good, you have not provided moisture to the hide.
Your car's tires have a tough job in the winter, too. Liberal use of a high-quality tire dressing keeps them looking good during the harshest weather, and provides a barrier to the elements and to the ozone that can cause rubber to deteriorate. Tire gels are a good solution in winter, as they seem to last longer.
If you live in a region that gets snow and ice, another easy tip for winter car protection is to spray tire dressing in the wheel wells to prevent buildup of snow, ice and road salt. Any inexpensive silicone spray dressing will do. Although not recommended for your exterior painted surfaces (it makes body shop repairs difficult), silicone is an excellent protectant for your engine, wheel wells, and the underside of your car. It's best to start this practice before the really cold weather hits.
If your car has expensive, delicate wheels, think about removing each wheel for winter preparation. Delicate wheels should be cleaned, inspected and sealed. Clean each wheel, front and back, with an extra-strength gel wheel cleaner. Scrub the tires thoroughly, too. Dry the wheels with a clean terry cloth towel. Protect with a high-quality paste wax or acrylic sealant. Complete the job by treating the tires (front and back) with a liberal application of tire dressing. Allow the tire dressing to soak in for 5 to 10 minutes before wiping off the excess.
Other parts of your car's exterior, such as the bumpers, trim and rubber door seals, need extra protection when the mercury drops, too. These materials are affected by extreme temperatures and the sun's ultraviolet (UV) radiation. UV radiation causes fading, hardening and cracking, especially in the winter with a reduced ozone layer. When properly maintained, door and trunk seals will maintain their shape and elasticity longer, providing a better seal.
If you drive a roadster in cold winter weather, now is the time to clean and protect your top. If water penetrates your top and then freezes, your top will be prone to severe damage. Protect your top before the first freeze.
Don't forget to inspect your windshield wipers. Replace them if there's any sign of wear. Remember, you're going to be counting on your wipers to deal with the elements. While you're at it, check your wash fluid and add a good wash booster. A good wash booster will help cut through road salt, road grime and mud so you can see.
If your car is more than 6 years old, think about replacing the battery. Every January or February there comes an especially brutal subzero morning that drains the last bit of power from weak car batteries. Even if your battery is relatively new, you should inspect it before winter arrives. Make certain the terminals and posts are free of corrosion (clean with baking soda and water), lubricated and tight.
Have the cooling system checked for the correct concentration and level of antifreeze. If your vehicle needs additional antifreeze, follow the manufacturer's recommendation for the ratio of water to antifreeze. If your antifreeze is more than 2 years old, it should be flushed and refilled.
Changing your car's oil and filter is the best way to prolong engine life. If you live in a harsh winter climate, late fall is the best time to change your oil to be ready for winter. Most manufacturers recommend an oil change every 5,000 to 15,000 miles or once a year, whichever comes first. Your oil service interval will depend on the age and manufacturer of your car.
If your car starts reluctantly or stalls in warm weather, the problem will only worsen when the mercury plummets. Get it checked now, and have the PVC, fuel and air filters replaced if necessary. Don't wait until you're out in the cold.
Worn tires won't give you the traction you need on wet, icy roads. If your tires are worn, replace them with a good set of all-weather radials. For extra grab in the snow, get a pair of snow tires. If you live in a rural area, you may want to keep a set of tire chains in your trunk.
Snow tires should always be used in complete sets of four. I know that it's common practice to place just one pair on the drive wheels, but this is a recipe for disaster, especially on front-wheel-drive vehicles. If the tires with the most grip are placed on the front, the rear will be more likely to lock up during braking, resulting in fishtailing or a possible spin. Although it's not as dangerous when a pair of snow tires are placed on the rear axle of a rear-drive car, those tires will only provide accelerative traction. They will do little for cornering or stopping.
Correct tire pressure ensures optimum handling, stopping and wear. Remember to check pressure frequently, because cold air causes it to drop (one pound for every 10 degrees Fahrenheit).
Winter preparation, especially in cold climates, will help your car make it to spring in good condition. If you take a weekend before the cold weather sets in to change the oil, check the tires, change your wiper blades, check your battery and coolant, and polish and wax your car, you'll be ready for winter.
Winter is finally over! Yahoo! If you're like me, this means a couple of things. Like once again it's time to clean up the garden for spring flowers. And the car needs a good checkup and cleaning in preparation for warmer weather.
When the weather begins to change from winter's gloom to the glory of spring, most of us get more active outside and begin using our cars more. Before getting into the full swing of warm weather, take time out to give your car a good spring cleaning and a maintenance checkup:
In addition to basic mechanical checks, spring is a good time to clean up your car and give it the protection it deserves. Here's what I recommend for spring cleaning:
Do you own a garage queen? You know, a car that you pamper and don't take outside during inclement weather? If you do, your garage queen may need extra special care.
I took my garage queen out today, just before sitting down to write this chapter. It's not that we have winter weather in my home town; far from it. I simply had other projects that occupied my time this winter.
When I finally got around to taking my car out for a nice Sunday drive, I found it dead as a doornail. The battery was history. No amount of electrolyte or charging would bring it back to life. So, I broke down and replaced the original battery with a heavy-duty unit. Lesson learned, again! I'll be in the market for a good trickle charger.
After getting the new battery installed and the car started, I took her out for a warm-up around the block. I was horrified to feel my car going "thump, thump, thump" as the flat spots on the tires slapped against the pavement. It figures, doesn't it? I didn't take my own advice to over inflate the tires before putting her away for such a long time. Strike two!
I was lucky we had a warm day. I came back to the garage and filled the tires to 50 PSI and went for another drive. After 10 minutes the car was running smoothly again, and I returned home to adjust the tire pressure to normal inflation.
You might have already guessed that my bad news was not over. I hadn't fired up the A/C yet. I was crossing my fingers before flipping the switch, because twice before I had allowed a car to sit, and the seals or A/C compressor failed. Who would guess that the A/C needs to be run regularly to keep from failing? Phew! At least I didn't have that problem this time. But, yuck, what's that smell?
Strike three, I had mildew. Mildew is one of those things you really hate to get in your A/C system. The only good way to kill it yourself is with a quality A/C and heating system cleaner. The product I prefer is Wurth A/C & Heating System Cleaner. It quickly eliminates odors caused by bacteria, fungus, mildew and stagnant water. Professionals seal the car and pump a gas through the A/C and vent system to kill the mildew.
Learn from my mistakes. Properly prepare your car before putting it away for winter. The best advice I can give is to drive your garage queen on dry days to keep the battery charged, tires round, A/C fresh and functioning, and moisture out of the crankcase.
Winter preparation, especially in cold climates, will help your car make it to spring in good condition. If you take a weekend before the cold weather sets in to change the oil, check the tires, change your wiper blades, check your battery and coolant, and polish and wax your car, you'll be ready for winter's worst. Likewise, after winter it's important to clean your car thoroughly, treat and inspect.