Taking care of your car during the winter can mean the difference between getting home safely and being stranded on the side of the road. I don’t know about you, but I want to make it to my warm house rather than be stuck on the side of the road in a snowstorm.
There’s no better time than the present to test some basic winter car care knowledge. Read over the info below and test your knowledge.
Letting your car warm up for a few minutes is a good idea.
False. Really. My dad, a certified gear head mind you, preached that letting your car warm up for a few minutes in the morning was necessary before driving off. However, I’ve learned this isn’t the case.
Idling your car for a long period of time wastes gas. In a Mother Earth News article, Richard Backus, editor in chief of Gas Engine and Motorcycle Classics magazines, says, “When your car’s engine is cold, the computer tells the fuel injectors to stay open longer, allowing more fuel into the engine to help it run cold.” He adds that idling to warm it up is the slowest way to bring the engine up to operating temperature.
Furthermore, you can cause long-term damage by clogging the catalytic converter, decreasing the fuel efficiency of your car. The catalytic converter, located in the exhaust system, utilizes the heat to burn off excess hydrocarbons, making car emissions cleaner. If the exhaust system isn’t warm enough, the converter won’t work properly.
Unless you live in a climate with constant subzero temperatures, all you need to do is let your car run for about a minute so the fluids circulate through the engine. Driving off slowly will actually warm your car up faster, save wear and tear on your car, and prevent you from wasting gas.
Putting some extra weight in your trunk gives you better traction.
True, but only for rear-wheel drive vehicles. Back when I had a pickup truck, my dad and I put about 300 pounds of extra weight in the bed. Doing this helped keep the drive wheels on the road. Although I lost a little fuel efficiency, staying on the road when it’s completely covered with snow or ice takes priority for me.
Adding extra weight in your trunk if you have a front- or all-wheel-drive car might cause more harm than good. It may cause you to lose control and over steer on snowy or icy roads.
You don’t have to worry about topping off your gas tank – even if the fuel light comes on.
This is false for a few reasons. First, keeping your gas tank above ½ full at all times ensures you won’t run out on a blustery night, stranding you on the side of the road this winter.
More importantly, water condensation from fluctuating temperatures builds inside a tank that’s nearly empty. Water is denser than gasoline and will sink to the bottom of your tank. If ice forms over the intake or inside the fuel lines, gas won’t reach the engine. Worse yet, having a mechanic repair gas lines and flushing water from the system can cost a lot.
Get in the habit now of filling up your car about every three days, depending on how much you drive.
To get the snow or frost off your windshield, you should use your wiper blades.
False. My boyfriend does this on frosty or snowy mornings because he doesn’t want to get out and scrape the windows. Using your wiper blades to clear your windshield is a great way to wear them out faster. Rubber tends to harden in freezing conditions, making them more brittle than normal.
You’ll be in much better shape if you spend a few bucks to buy a scraper and clear the ice and snow with that rather than your wiper blades. You could also spray your car windows with a vinegar solution to prevent frost from forming if you really hate scraping it off.
Check your wiper blades and make sure your washer fluid is full every day. Slush and dirt can prevent you from seeing the road; your only line of defense while driving is your windshield wipers and fluid. Also, keep some extra fluid and wipers in your car.
How did you do? Did you get these all right? If not, that’s okay, but make sure to heed this advice. If you do you’ll make it home safely, and you’ll help your car last longer. If not, don’t be surprised if you get stuck on the side of the road this winter.
Check out these other Zing articles and prepare yourself for the worst winter driving conditions Mother Nature can throw at you.
Do you have any winter car care or driving tips we haven’t mentioned? Share them below with other Zing readers!