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How Should I Service my Car in the Winter?


We get asked this question a lot at QIS. Weather here in Michiana can change at a moment's notice, and it never seems that the weather guy's predictions are quite right. One day it's 40 degrees, and the next there's two feet of snow on the ground. Snow and ice can turn simple errands into an all day event. To put it lightly, winter weather can drive you crazy. The reality is that it takes just as big a toll on your vehicle as it does your sanity.


Simply put, your car faces challenges in the winter that might seem trivial in the warmer months. Here are some different things to ask your auto shop about that will help your car withstand the elements.

1.) Energy Management Testing

It goes without saying that your battery suffers in the winter. Damage done in the summer usually doesn't show until the winter months come around- it's then that your battery is really put to the test. Most people don't identify this problem until it's too late because your vehicle simply requires less power to start in warmer temperatures. In the cold, your vehicle requires much more power to start, but your battery supplies up to 60% less power at certain temperatures. It's imperative that you ask your shop to make sure that all of your connectors are in good shape and working properly. Taking care of your battery will help ensure that your car will be capable of getting you to work and the kids to school. You don't want to be the person that has to have their car towed to the shop during a snowstorm.


2.) Check Drive Belts

Freezing cold temperatures can cause your drive belts to misalign and make obnoxious squealing sounds. After a while, cold temperatures will cause your drive belts to crack and wear out. Drive belts are far more prone to breaking in the winter than in the summer. The constant heating and cooling of your vehicle while driving and sitting parked in the winter can cause a lot of stress on your belts. The last thing you need is a drive belt to break on you while you're driving. Ask your shop to keep an eye on this during your next service.


3.) Check Hoses

Much like your drive belts, your hoses go through extreme temperature changes when you go from driving to parking your vehicle in the cold overnight. These temperature changes cause your hoses to expand and contract rapidly, and wear out faster than they would in fairer weather. After a while, this will cause the hoses to crack, and eventually break. Things such as leaks can deteriorate your hoses even faster. The material that your hoses are made from is designed to withstand extreme heat, but the same can't be said for the cold. You might not notice a worn out hose in the summer, but the problem can become much more evident in the winter. Ask your shop to inspect your hoses before they become an issue.


4.) Check Tires and Tire Pressure

It goes without saying that tires are the ultimate decider for safe driving in the winter. You can do everything else on this list, but if you forget the tires, you can expect to find yourself shoveling your car out of a ditch- and that's a best case scenario. You might find that your tire pressure light comes on a lot in the winter. This is because swings in temperature cause the air in your tire to expand and contract, and can cause the pressure in your tires to drop by up to 10 PSI, even if your tires are in perfect shape. Taking good care of your tires is the closest thing you have to a guarantee that you'll be safe on the roads in winter. Ask your shop if your tires are a concern.


5.) Top off Coolant

Among other things, coolant prevents your engine's cooling system from freezing in the cold weather. Believe it or not, there is a reason that the main component of coolant is called antifreeze! It's important to note that coolant contracts in colder temperatures, and in doing so, can set off sensors in your vehicle. It's imperative to top it off in the winter to prevent your engine from unnecessary and expensive issues.


6.) Check Oil Level

Cold temperatures can cause your oil to thicken and move slower than usual. This makes it much harder to pump, putting a lot of a strain on your battery. This process also uses more gas and hurts your efficiency. This domino effect can eventually create issues for your engine and cause components to wear out quickly. Ask your shop to use oil that will be able to withstand the colder temperatures.


7.) Check Wipers

Windshield wipers are taken for granted. You don't truly appreciate all they do until you lose them. They keep your line of sight clear and in turn, keep you safe. Driving without fully functional wipers can be a nightmare. You do not want to be caught in a snowstorm without them. You should make an effort visually check your blades to ensure that there's no obvious damage, but it's best if you find reliable wiper blades that will resist wear and last longer. It's important to note that not all blades are made the same. Ask your shop which blades they use on their personal cars.


All in all, winter is when your vehicle is really put to the test. All components of your vehicle experience stress in the winter that it normally doesn't in fairer seasons. Call your shop and make sure that you're ready to take on the elements!


What's your top winter maintenance tip? Leave it in the comments below!

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