Thursday, October 22, 2009
Getting ready for winter
Is the car you drive every day ready for the cold weather to come? If your not sure, read on for a few suggestions to help you on the way . . .
Everything begins with the battery. If your battery is dead, you aren’t going anywhere. Batteries last 3-4 years in most cars, and they tend to fail without warning during extremes of hot or cold. If your battery is four years old I suggest you replace it because it’s on borrowed time. How do you know its age, you ask? Many batteries are stamped with a date code that your service technician can read. Failing that, you should keep service records, and some motorists can actually lay their hands on such things!
Well equipped shops have battery testers that can warn you of a battery’s impending demise but in my opinion it safer to just change them on a time schedule because I’ve seen batteries that tested 80% fail totally on the next subzero morning. Test technology only goes so far, I guess . . .
How are your windshield wipers and washers? You really need them in winter, so this is the time to replace marginal blades. We’ve had good luck with the new Bosch Ikon blades, which are all-rubber so they don’t freeze and jam like traditional metal-and-rubber wipers.
Washer nozzles can clog (you can clean them with strands of wire) and get bent out of aim. Fix them now, and make sure your washer reservoir is filled with the right washer solvent. Don’t know where the solvent goes? On most cars the washer reservoir is white or translucent and has a pop off lid, as shown. Most washer fluid is light blue in color.
The next item to check is your coolant, which is also called antifreeze. Early cars used water in their cooling systems. Not any more! Newer vehicles use sophisticated chemical blends to achieve the combination of cooling efficiency and corrosion reduction that today’s cars require.
Coolant absorbs chemicals from the engine, and it can become corrosive if it’s left in a car too long. That’s why most car makers suggest changing coolant every three or four years, even if you don’t drive a lot.
For many years there was only one kind of antifreeze, which was green in color. Many of today’s cars use special coolants that have additives to protect the various metals and plastics in modern engines. In our shop, we’ve learned to use BMW coolant in BMW cars, and Jaguar coolant in Jaguars. If you drive a late model import it almost surely takes special coolant. I suggest you follow the manufacturer recommendations in this area because I’ve seen the wrong coolant cause leaks, clogs, and even overheating failures.
The coolant reservoir for the engine usually has a screw-on lid and it’s filled with green coolant in older cars. In newer vehicles the coolant can be yellow, red, or dark blue. Don’t confuse those two liquids!
In the picture above I'm pointing to the washer reservoir. The coolant reservoir is to the right.
How’s your heat? We don’t pay much attention to our car’s heater during summer, but we’ll be needing heat any day now. In a modern car, a weak or inoperative heater is usually a sign of other problem, like low coolant or a stuck thermostat.
The final thing to check is your tires. Where I live we fit snow tires, and this is the time to be doing that. In other areas people use the same tires year round, but it’s important to make sure you have good tread. Remember that a tire can wear unevenly, so it looks good on the outside edge but the inside or center is totally bald. Don’t be fooled by tire trickery!
If you do have uneven wear it’s probably a sign your car needs alignment.
The staff at Robison Service are always here to answer your questions and resolve any service needs. Remember that it’s always less costly to maintain your car preventatively that to respond to breakdowns.
We are located at 347 Page Boulevard in Springfield, Massachusetts. Call 413 785 1665 or email service manager Maribeth White at firstname.lastname@example.org