Colorado

Dec 9, 2009 3:00 AM by Jeannette Hynes

How to keep the car running when it's cold

Dead batteries, frozen wiper fluid, and cracked belts are just a few of the many problems mechanics at Auto Tech Plaza in Colorado Springs see when the temperatures get bitter cold.

Service Manager Jim Thomas says checking and maintaining those fluids, like oil and antifreeze, will help prevent a lot of winter weather car problems. Thomas says newer cars don't need as much of a warmup as older ones.

"Certainly, an engine warms up faster when you're driving it and moving down the road than just leaving it sit there in the driveway in park," says Thomas, "but getting those fluids going is better than driving away with a stone-cold engine."

Inside the shop, the mechanics work on a corroded battery and an antifreeze tank with a leak. Thomas says one part of the car people forget about is the tires. Cold weather drops tire pressure, so it is important to keep the tires filled properly.

Thomas says engine warmers are good for diesel-fueled cars and older cars, but in a Colorado Springs or Pueblo winter climate, they're probably not worth the money.

A few other cold weather car tips from the Car Care Council:

Battery - Very cold temperatures will reduce a vehicle's battery power so it's important to keep the connections clean, tight and corrosion-free. Unfortunately, batteries don't always give warning signs before they fail completely. If your vehicle's battery is more than three years old, it's wise to replace it. When choosing a replacement, make sure the new one has adequate capacity for your exact make and model.

Antifreeze - While the owner's manual will have usage specifications for antifreeze, the mixture of antifreeze (coolant) and water inside your vehicle's radiator is typically 50:50. When properly mixed, antifreeze and water provide excellent anti-boil, anti-freeze and anti-corrosive properties. As a reminder, don't make the mistake of adding 100 percent antifreeze as full-strength antifreeze actually has a lower freeze point than when mixed with water. Coolant should be flushed and refilled at least every two years in most vehicles.

Oil - The Car Care Council recommends changing to low-viscosity oil in winter, as it will flow more easily between moving parts when cold. Drivers in sub-zero driving temperatures should drop their oil weight from 10-W30 to 5-W30 as thickened oil can make it hard to start the car.

Some other quick tips:

· Keep the gas tank at least half full, decreasing the chances of moisture forming in the gas lines and possibly freezing.

· Tire pressure should also be checked, as tires will lose pressure when temperatures drop - consider special tires if snow and ice are a problem in your area.

· If you're due for a tune-up, have it done before winter sets in. Winter magnifies existing problems such as pings, hard starts, sluggish performance or rough idling.

· Have the exhaust system checked for carbon monoxide leaks, which can be especially dangerous during cold weather driving when windows are closed.

· It's also good to allow your car a little more time to warm up when temperatures are below freezing to let the oil in the engine and transmission circulate and get warm.

· If you live in a place with especially harsh winter conditions, consider using cold weather washer fluid and special winter windshield blades.

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