By Tom Torbjornsen
Greetings Western New York! Tom Torbjornsen from Towne Automotive here with some timely car care tips for winter.
Does this scenario sound familiar? You're driving down the highway and suddenly a huge mass of dirty snow mixed with saltwater splashes onto your windshield from a passing truck. In a panic, you start the wipers and shoot the wiper fluid, only to find that you have run out of fluid and the wiper blades are merely pushing the slush across the window! A very dangerous predicament, indeed ... and totally avoidable.
Keep your wiper system in top shape by checking the wiper blades to make sure there are no tears or worn out rubber, and replace them as necessary. A good set of wiper blades is a small investment with a big return. Also, check the wiper fluid level frequently. It's a good idea to keep a bottle of it in your trunk. It is imperative that you are able to see, especially in inclement weather!
Engine and transmission oils get very heavy when outside temperatures drop, causing them to flow more slowly (like molasses). Add to the equation a dirty, clogged oil filter, and oil flow becomes substantially sluggish. The result? An increase in friction, which produces heat. Higher temperatures can result in premature failure of transmissions and engines. So make sure both the engine and transmission maintenance is current. Pay close attention to the transmission and oil filters. Have them changed at the manufacturer's suggested intervals.
Two criteria that must be met for your car to start in cold weather are a clean, rich fuel mixture and a hot spark at the sparkplugs. Make sure that the performance system is operating up to par. If you haven't had a computer scan done on the system lately, then have one done. Repair anything questionable. Also, perform routine maintenance that might be outdated, such as a fuel filter replacement.
Bad belts, hoses and marginal cooling systems break down under the stress of cold temperatures with extreme temp swings. Make sure that all belts and hoses are in good condition. Soft or brittle hoses and belts that display cracks, glazing or missing ribs (on serpentine belts) need to be replaced. Finally, have a cooling system checkup, including a protection check (-34 degrees is ideal), and pressure test for leaks. If you can't remember the last time you had the cooling system flushed and refilled with new coolant, it’s due!
Replace any torn protective rubber boots in the steering, suspension and drivetrain. Torn boots allow road salt, dirt and grit to contaminate these components. Loss of lubrication, increase in friction/heat and ultimate failure of the component usually follows close behind.
Check tire condition. Make sure the tires have adequate tread and proper air pressure. Good tire tread is absolutely necessary for traction on wet and snow covered roadways.
Wash the exterior and undercarriage of your car weekly to keep it clean of road salt during high salting times. Salt + Water + Metal = Rust. If you're going to keep the car for a long period of time (six years or more), consider having a rust protection service done to the vehicle. I highly recommend the Car Well method, so check them out online at www.carwell.com or call 896-1677. And make sure you get a fresh coat of wax on the car to protect the paint.
Outlined below are some common winter-related automotive problems and how to avoid them:
Frozen gas lines: Ice forms inside the gas lines from condensation buildup in the system. To keep this from happening, keep your gas tank at least half full (or more) at all times. Also, use gas line antifreeze with isopropyl; it's compatible with today's computer controls and fuel injection systems. I suggest you use gas line antifreeze at least twice a week during the extremely cold weather if you drive a lot.
Frozen windshield wipers: Snow and ice often settle at the base of the windshield, binding the wiper blades in ice. Some of you think you can clear the windshield of snow and ice by turning on the wipers. Nothing could be further from the truth. The wiper system was designed to clear the weather elements from your windshield as you are driving. It cannot remove the glacier formed at the base of your windshield. Here’s a list of potential consequences from overtaxing the wiper system: Burning up the wiper motor, stripping out the wiper arms, damaging the wiper transmission linkage, and/or overheating the wiper motor wiring harness, causing an electrical short or fire.
Avoid trouble by clearing the wipers of all ice and snow before turning them on. Or, when you park the vehicle for more than a half hour, lift the wipers away from the windshield so they don’t freeze to the glass. Remember, they are called windshield wipers, not windshield plows!
Frozen door locks and windows: The window in your door has a rubber gasket at its base to prevent water from traveling down into the door. Unfortunately, on most cars this gasket is either rotted away or maladjusted. If water gets down into the door, it will freeze the lock linkage and window regulators. The only fix is to either replace or adjust the gasket. Forcing frozen windows and locks will result in damage to parts and cause major repairs, relieving you of hard-earned money. Lock deicer is designed to defrost the keyhole, not the inside of the door.
Are you ready to replace your old ride with a newer vehicle? Come on down to Towne Hyundai and see me, Tommy T! Do you like the Hyundai Elantra? Well, Hyundai just announced two new incentives on the Elantra! There’s a $500 Valued Owner coupon (for those of you that have a Hyundai in the family). And if you don’t have a Hyundai in the family but you want to experience the Hyundai difference, there’s a $500 Competitive Owner coupon on all 2012 and 2013 Elantra Sedan, Coupe and GT models.
You say you want a pre-owned vehicle? We have a giant stock of pre-owned vehicles to browse. If you remember me from my Saturdays on WBEN radio when I answered your automotive ownership and maintenance questions on the radio, I ask you to look me up at Towne Hyundai/Autochoice on the corner of Southwestern Boulevard and Milestrip Road in Orchard Park for my personal consultation on your next vehicle purchase. At Towne Automotive Group we scour every pre-owned vehicle with our 115-point inspection before it goes on the lot for sale. We’ve been doing this a long time with a stellar track record of happy customers, so you can rest assured that you’re buying a solid and safe vehicle for you and your family.
When you come in just ask for me, Tom T. You can also e-mail me at TomT@TowneAuto.Com or give me a call at 662-7400, ext. 534. I’ll help you find the exact vehicle you are looking for. Having been in the car business going on 35 years now, there’s not much I haven’t seen, so e-mail, give me a call or stop by to take advantage of my expertise and the great Hyundai incentives for January! I’ll put you into the right vehicle for you, your family and your budget.
Tom Torbjornsen is an automotive journalist in good standing with the International Motor Press Association (IMPA) and the Motor Press Guild (MPG), Tom has been the repair and maintenance editor for AOL Autos, At Home Portals and many other websites. You can hear his radio show, “America’s Car Show,” locally on WKSN 1340 AM via the SSI Radio Network at 8 a.m. Saturday. Tom’s television show, “America’s Car Show,” can be seen on Buffalo’s WBBZ-TV. The show airs at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday and is re-aired at 9 a.m. Thursday and 11 a.m. Saturday.
For more information, visit www.americascarshow.com, follow America’s Car Show on Facebook for frequent updates, or email Tom at email@example.com. You can find Tom’s latest book, “How To Make Your Car Last Forever,” at Barnes & Nobel and Amazon.com.