Cold weather car tips
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1/22/08
Recent 15 degree below zero weather here in Wisconsin, reminded me to add this page, just for you!


1. Always make sure the anti-freeze in your car is good enough for the lowest temperatures expected, and then some! Generally, this is a 50/50 mixture of anti-freeze and water.
Repair shops generally test this as part of a winter check-up, or if any work was done on the cooling system. As a rule, although rust-inhibitors in anti-freeze can wear off with time, the freeze protection doesn't. Never add straight water to your cooling system, even in summer, as this WILL make the anti-freeze less effective. Don't make the mistake of buying the lower-value pre-mixed anti-freeze that is already half water, then adding more water to it. Water freezing in the cooling system likely will result in you shopping for another car, as it can ruin the radiator, the heater, and most importantly, the engine! ("Wind Chill" doesn't apply to cars, only animals and people. Yes, the wind will make things cool of faster, but they won't get colder than the actual temperature.)

2. Even though you may have heard that you shouldn't warm up your car before driving because "today's cars warm up instantly", that's not totally true. Although the computer and fuel injection systems on cars nowadays make them run like they're warmed up, they're really not. It's important to not rev up the engine until it's been running for at least 10-15 seconds, longer if it's extremely cold. It can take that long for the cold oil to reach critical engine parts. And then, take it easy on the thing at least until the heater is blowing somewhat warm air.

3. Speaking of heaters, if you put your heater on "high" as soon as you start up your cold car, you're not really helping yourself, or your car. First of all, the heater draws it's air from outside. So you're forcing frigid outside air into the car, which can overcome body heat and actually make you feel COLDER! Second, the heater gets first shot at the heat from the engine. Running the heater on high right away can actually use up all available heat from the engine, preventing the engine from ever warming up properly. This is especially true with smaller engines, like 4-cylinders. Best advice, run the heater fan on "low" until the engine is at least partly warmed up.

4. If you have problems with your windows freezing shut, here's a trick I use. Leave the window about a quarter of an inch from being closed all the way. On most cars, this will still seal at the top to keep snow out. Now when it freezes, first close the window, which will break it loose from the bottom seal, then open it. Of course if you have those stupid "Auto" windows that you can't open just a little, you'll have to practice stopping it in just the right place on the way up. I prefer the crank!

5. Wipers like to freeze to the windshield. If you turn them on and they're froze, you risk damaging the expensive wiper motor, linkages, and the blades. Even if you turn them back off right away, on many cars the motor will stay on, because it ran just enough that it thinks it's partway through a cycle, and will try to complete the cycle, as long as the key is on. Best advice is to warm up the engine, then run the defroster to warm up the windshield. If that's not feasable, at least try to carefully break the blades loose from the window, before turning on the wipers.

6. Better yet, leave the car in the snowbank, click on the
<home> link, and read the rest of this site!