Getting the day started isn’t just tough for you, as your car may also feel the winter chill during those early morning starts. But while we can just chuck on our favourite trackies and warm up with a cup of coffee, it may take a bit more love and care to get your wheels up to speed during the winter months. But what exactly can you do to make sure your car starts – and drives – as it should no matter the time of year or temperature? In this article, Canstar Blue looks at some winter maintenance tips to help you get back on the road.
Winter car maintenance tips
While Australia isn’t generally known for its harsh winters, it can still get chilly enough to make your car splutter and cough when you turn the key. To help keep your car from catching a cold, here are some winter maintenance tips:
- Check your oil
- Test your battery
- Check your tyres
- Take care of your windscreen
- Touch up the exterior
- Use fuel injector cleaner
- Top up your fluids
Check your oil
While it’s important to regularly check your oil regardless of the time of year, winter can create different problems which may require you to check out a couple of extra things. Depending on which type of oil your vehicle uses, the cold weather might make it slower for the oil to make its way through the engine, causing you a few headaches. If you have an older car, it may be worth exploring synthetic oils, which traditionally move easier in colder climates than conventional motor oils, allowing your car to start regardless of the weather. However, before you put new motor oil in your engine, read the owner’s manual or get advice from a mechanic to save you from accidently causing further damage to your engine.
Test your battery
Your battery will work harder in the colder months, and will often lose more power when it’s turned off, meaning there’s a higher chance you’ll jump in the car only to find it won’t turn over. If your battery is already heading on its way out before the colder months start, it’s best to have a replacement battery on hand ready to go to save you being stranded on a cold morning. Otherwise, if you’ve got faith your battery can last another winter, it’s best to regularly check the battery charge to ensure it’s running properly. Alternatively, if you’re not planning on leaving the house much during winter, it’s also best to run your engine for a few minutes every day to help charge the battery, especially if you park outside.
Check your tyres
With winter comes wet roads, which can prove dangerous if your tyres are on its last legs. Tyres need tread to keep traction while on the road, and need more tread to keep you safe when the roads are slippery. This means if your tyres don’t have much tread left, you should look to possibly replace your tyres. Additionally, if you live in an area that experiences snow, it may be worthwhile to look into snow tyres and chains to help you gain traction on difficult roads.
Take care of your windscreen
Good visibility is a key part of driving. But as we know, things can begin to feel a bit dicey whenever dark clouds appear, the rain starts to pour and the windscreen fogs up. To help improve your visibility when behind the wheel, don’t forget to ensure your windscreen wipers are up to scratch and that the fans in your car are defrosting the windscreen effectively. Plus, make sure to clean the interior of your car windscreen to remove dirt and grime. If you live in areas prone to extreme cold, investing in an ice scraper, or adding de-icing chemicals to your windscreen water tank, can also save you some time and effort for when you need to hit the open road.
Touch up the exterior
Chances are you won’t be spending your weekends washing your car with the winter breeze ripping through, so taking a bit of extra care of your car’s exterior before you head inside for the winter could pay off when the warmer months turn up again. Treating your ride to a deep wash and wax to protect the paint from the winter chill can help it come out the other side looking fresh, while also helping to prevent the exterior from rusting during the wet months. It’s also best to inspect your headlights and brake lights to ensure dirt, grime and oxidation aren’t hindering your visibility, and that all the light bulbs are working at full strength.
Use fuel injector cleaner
Your car’s performance is often affected in winter, with engine parts moving slower than usual, or water freezing over and blocking vital pipes and pathways. By using a fuel injector cleaner – a liquid that you can add to your fuel tank – any water in the fuel system is cleared out, in addition to any dirt or grime buildup, ensuring that the maximum amount of fuel is reaching the engine. How often you clean your fuel injectors will depend on your engine type and how cold your winters are, with fuel injector cleaners available at car accessory retailers.
Top up your fluids
There’s a lot to look at when you pop the hood, whether you’re driving a family heirloom or a sparkling new ride. Regardless of the age, model and type of the vehicle, all cars are designed to continue running as long as its fluids are topped up. In addition to checking your oil levels, you should also look at water levels, including the tank to help you clean your windscreen, as well as the antifreeze in your vehicle’s cooling system. As the name suggests, antifreeze ensures that the water in your car’s system doesn’t freeze over and impact your car’s functionality. Antifreeze tests are available for when you want to get your hands dirty, or you can similarly take it to a mechanic to get your levels tested.
Should I take extra care of my car during winter?
While you can’t be blamed for wanting to stay snuggled up inside the house during winter, taking care of your car before the temperature drops can help you put the brakes on unnecessary headaches later on. Of course, you can always ask your mechanic to do a few more inspections the next time you take your car in for a service. However, the tips above can all be done in an afternoon and might save you time further down the line. But if you’re not familiar with what’s underneath your bonnet, it’s best to consult with the owner’s manual before you go fiddling around to ensure you’re getting the job done properly.
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