Winter Car Maintenance Tips

February 20, 2018

Dashboard Warning Lights and their Meaning

Keeping your vehicle well maintained is important. You may notice though that the dashboard warning lights will illuminate. When this happens, it is important to bring the vehicle in as soon as possible so we can inspect it for what the issue might be. Warning symbols are normally in red. They indicate a potential problem or safety issue that should be checked by us so we can diagnose it correctly. If you notice the temperature warning light, it can mean your coolant is overheating. Quickly pull over and let your car cool down or the heat can destroy your car’s engine. The symbol also comes in blue which means the coolant temperature is below what is needed for optimum performance. It normally pops up when you start up your car in the morning and the symbol should disappear once the vehicle warms up.   If the engine oil pressure warning light is on, it may mean your engine has lost normal oil pressure. It could be something as simple as being low on oil, or it could be an indication of serious engine problems. The trouble is, you don’t know whether the problem is serious or no big deal, so the best course of action is to pull over immediately, turn off your engine, and call for an appointment. If you replace the oil often, it could mean there is a serious leak. You should never run your vehicle without oil in it, so make sure this issue is fixed as soon as possible.   If you notice the battery charge light illuminate, the first thing you should do is turn off anything that draws power from the battery, except for the headlights if you are driving at night. This includes the air conditioning and heating system, the stereo, any interior lights, and any accessories such as heated seats or heated mirrors. Do not turn your car off until you get to somewhere safe, just in case it doesn’t start again. If the vehicle becomes hard to start, make sure to bring it in, so we can inspect and test the battery for you.
February 13, 2018

Habits to Avoid in Winter

  Driving in the winter is much different than driving any other time of the year. One thing to remember is to make sure you slow down. The mornings have freezing and roads are slick. If you are used to some habits you might have when driving, winter is the time to stop doing them, so you can ensure your vehicle is well maintained and working efficiently. Changing the windshield wipers is one of the easiest items to forget when it comes to car maintenance. Make sure to change the wipers as soon as they do not clear the windshield effectively anymore. If you notice that they smudge or make noises when they operate, it may be time to have them replaced. Windshield wipers are vital to your safety on the road; better wipers mean better visibility. Climbing into a freezing car is not fun, so you may resort to starting the vehicle and letting it warm up before driving. This is viable for a couple minutes; however, engines are not designed to idle for long periods of time. Idling for too long can cause a buildup on the spark plugs, rendering them less efficient. Not to mention, idling for long periods of time can also waste fuel. Tires tend to be a bigger issue in the winter due to compressed air that cooler weather brings. The air pressure in your tires is reduced by one pound per square inch every 10-degree drop in the temperature. It may be a good idea to keep an emergency maintenance kit in the car and include a portable air pump and pressure gauge. This can help you to ensure the tires are at the correct air pressure they should be at. Also remember to fill up the tank if it gets about half full. During the winter months, it’s better to fill up frequently as a near-empty tank can cause problems. Moist air in an empty tank can freeze and crystallize, leading to ice in the fuel lines. If you keep the tank filled, you will be able to drive incase of an emergency or in the middle of the night. If you ever have an issue with your vehicle, make sure to bring it in so we can inspect it for you.
January 23, 2018

Driving Tips for Winter Roads

When driving in the winter, you will want to make sure you follow some tips and guidelines to ensure you have the safest driving experience. Allow yourself the extra time to drive more slowly. Other motorists will be driving slowly, and overtaking may not be an option. You don’t need the extra stress of being late for an appointment. Clear the snow off of all the windows and mirrors before you drive. This prevents snow falling and impairing your vision, or the vision of other drivers. Don’t leave a lot of snow on the roof. It has been known to slide forward under braking and cover the windshield. Also remember to clear front and rear lights, so other people can see you and your signals. Driving in snow requires anticipation of other road users behavior, as much as looking after your own car. Watch the behavior of oncoming traffic; you may have to avoid them if they slide towards you. Try to leave a 10 second gap between you and the car in front. The 10 second gap allows for increased stopping distances, and gives you time to respond if the car in front has problems. If they stop, you may have time and space to steer a different course, or by slowing down you can allow time for the obstruction to clear without having to stop and restart yourself. Normally you should follow a car at least three seconds, but this should increase if the weather or road conditions are poor. Also be aware of where ice might be. Look for reflections in the road surface ahead; what looks like water, may be ice. One of the first signs of slippery conditions is if the steering becomes lighter to turn. The action of Anti-lock Braking Systems (ABS) is felt as a vibration of the brake pedal. If you recognize that sensation, it can give you early warning of slippery conditions. If roads are slippery you may see these dashboard warning lights flash when wheel spin is detected under acceleration. They indicate that ABS is being used to slow the fastest turning wheel, or the accelerator is being reduced momentarily. Bright sun and a warm wind can quickly thaw ice, but leave patches in sheltered areas, so be vigilant where a wall casts a shadow over the road. Also remember that the braking may be affected on bad roads. Brake gently without locking the wheels. If you have ABS, it will repeatedly release the brakes momentarily and then re-apply them, to keep the wheels going round enough for you to steer. Always be aware of the vehicles around you, and allow enough space.
December 29, 2017

Tips for Driving in the Winter

  With cold temperatures comes the chance for ice and snow to cover the surface of the roads. You will want to make sure that you know the weather conditions and the conditions of the roads when you travel. If either are less than ideal, then make sure to take your time and slow down. By taking your time, you can help reduce the chance of an accident or going in the ditch.   The tires should be inspected regularly in the winter. They should be properly inflated to the amount determined in the vehicle owner’s manual. For every ten degrees the temperature drops, the tire pressure usually decreases by about one pound. Maintaining the proper tire pressure can help to improve the fuel efficiency of the vehicle. It can also give you better traction on slippery roads. The tires should also be inspected so they have enough tread to grip the roads better with. You can test the amount of tread the tires have by taking a penny and placing it upside down in the tread. If you can see Lincoln’s head, the tread is extremely low.   Another thing to do this winter is to watch the road as you drive. When driving in the winter, also watch the roads for any slick spots. Bridges and overpasses generally freeze before other parts of the pavement. If you notice that the road conditions are less than ideal, make sure to slow down to allow enough time, space, and handling of your vehicle. Only drive at a speed that you are comfortable at. If you start to notice poor handling with your vehicle or if it swerves, slow down to stay safe.   Keep the windshield washer fluid topped off by using an antifreeze version in the winter. This can help to ensure the reservoir does not freeze and crack. It can also help to ensure that the washer pump will continue to operate properly when you might need it. If you notice an issue with your vehicle, make sure to bring it in as soon as possible.