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Used Car Winterization Tips

By Hanna Nilson



Just as we winterize our homes with insulation, space heaters and extra blankets as well as our wardrobe with scarf's, hats, coats and gloves; used car winterization is just as necessary for being ready to tackle those bitter cold temperatures.

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Many take the power and durability of their used car or truck for granted. Although cars are now built to endure a great range of temperature changes and harsh weather conditions, there are certain car winterization practices which can maximize on the performance, safety and longevity of both your used, pre-owned and/or new car.

Of course, a general tune-up for your car is the best way to get professional help with beginning the process of used car winterization. However, the following winterization checklist is meant to serve as an informational reminder to anyone who is interested in taking better care of their car before, during and after the winter season.

  1. Battery:
    If your battery is within a year of its life expectancy, have it tested. It's smarter to deal with an aging battery on a pleasant fall weekend than a totally dead one in the dreary cold of winter. A weak battery and/or alternator may not be able to deliver the required energy charge or
    amperage for a winter-cold start. Nobody wants to be stuck on the side of a highway with a dead car battery, so plan ahead and have your battery checked.

  2. Belts/Hoses:
    It's important to check all the belts and hoses because any cracked or tattered rubber may not make it through the winter. Without car winterization, the combination of freezing temperatures and ruthless winter driving conditions adds strain on practically every part of your car's engine. Taking precautions ahead of time might save you the trouble of dealing with a breakdown, which is all the more annoying during cold winters.

  3. Tires:
    One of the most common practices of used car winterization is taking a close look at your tire tread. Driving on snow and icy roads requires as much traction as your tires can deliver. For rear-wheel drive/front engine cars, be very particular when inspecting the tread on the rear tires. The back tires are where you really need the extra grip. Also, making sure that your tires are fully pressurized will always help with driving safely in winter conditions. Note that the colder temperatures will reduce the pressure in your tires, so before it starts getting cold, be sure to fill them to their appropriate capacity.

  4. Anti-freeze:
    Most anti-freezes are an ethylene glycol based fluid with low freezing and high boiling points when mixed with water. Even if the fluids look relatively fresh, it is recommended that it be checked every 30,000 miles or two years, whichever comes first. These chemicals loose their strength towards the end of this time period. So, chances are, if you didn't change the anti-freeze last winter, you may want to consider keeping a close watch on it in order to avoid engine corrosion.
    Warning: mixing different types of anti-freeze is a definite no-no!

  5. Motor Oil:
    Your motor oil should be changed regularly, regardless of the seasons. However, if your car is expected to experience unusually high or low tempters, you may want to consider double-checking the owner's manual for the recommended winter or summer rating. For example, if you use thicker oil for sever summer driving conditions and are looking at a relatively colder winter, this would be the time for changing the oil to a thinner weight.

  6. Window Wiper/Washer:
    Winter is the toughest season for your used car's window wiper blades. Window wipers are not very tolerant of the salted road-slush. Therefore, to avoid being stuck in a winter storm with minimal visibility and inefficient window cleaning materials, be sure to stock-up on washer fluid. Also, it is an important used car winterization procedure to check if there are any scratches or cracks in your windshield, it's best to have them repaired before winter starts. With the combination of a cold window and a warm interior, a small scratch can quickly grow into a large crack.

  7. Exhaust:
    Having an engine exhaust or carbon monoxide leak in your car's exhaust system can be very dangerous. Check your car's exhaust system and your floorboards. If the exhaust is leaking and the heater is on with the windows closed, as they usually are during winter, the consequences could be potentially fatal! Although it is uncommon, for your safety, be sure to have the exhaust fixed as soon as possible.


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