Winter Weather and Your Vehicle: What You Should Know

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In addition to wet, icy roads, winter also brings with it a plethora of additional maintenance concerns for vehicle owners. If your area has received any winter precipitation, your vehicle has likely collected a lot of dirt, grime, salt and slush, all of which take a toll on your car’s finish. If you’ve experienced a significant change in temperature recently, you may be driving around with one or more underinflated tires. If the temperature is below freezing, and most of your trips are 5 minutes or less, this puts significant wear on your engine, which never has enough time to fully heat up.

We are headquartered in an area where all of these situations are not only likely, but probable, so we’ve put together some tips on how to take care of your vehicle in this winter weather.

Road Salt

There are many benefits of road salt—it improves traction and speeds snow removal, reducing the number of weather-related crashes during the winter. Despite it being the best way of dealing with snow and ice, there are some negative effects associated with road salt as well. It is damaging to the environment and corrosive to vehicles and roadways.

Every winter, 3.5 pounds of the millions of tons of road salt dumped onto roads across the country ends up on your car. Salt leads to rust, which leads to a lot of money leaving your pockets for vehicle repairs. Replacing or repairing rusted and corroded parts on your vehicle will likely cost at least $1,000, if not much more.

There are several things you can do to protect your car from the corrosive effects of road ice.

First, make sure to thoroughly wash the underside of your vehicle to eliminate any traces of road salt. Tip: Add three tablespoons of baking soda to the water to neutralize the salt. Make sure to open your doors after washing to allow water build up to drain out.

Although pressure washers are convenient, they may not be the best choice if you are trying to eliminate the salt. They can leave behind corrosive deposits and the high pressure water stream may actually drive corrosive chemicals further into your vehicle’s crevices.

If you are going to an automatic car wash, make sure the water is fresh and non-recycled. Recycled water may contain salt and chemicals that have been washed off of other cars. If the car wash offers a low pH pre-rinse cycle, you may want to opt for this. Low pH detergents can help break up and neutralize corrosive deposits.

Only use ice scrapers on windows. Using them on the painted surfaces of your car can damage your car’s finish, exposing the underlying metal to corrosive materials. Along those lines, any scratches or chips in your car’s paint should be repaired in a timely manner to prevent rust and corrosion. Regular vehicle waxing adds an additional layer of protection to your car’s painted surfaces.

Lastly, when your vehicle is inspected for its routine maintenance check, make sure that the inspection includes safety-related undercar components, such as brake and fuel lines. There is no substitute for proper car care.

Tire Pressure

Have you ever gone out to your car in the morning and found your tire pressure warning icon illuminated? This is common in areas that experience big temperature fluctuations since a 10-degree-Farenheit drop in temperature correlates to a 1 pound per square inch (psi) drop in tire air pressure.

There is a quick fix to low tire air pressure—a swift shot of compressed air will re-inflate tires to their recommended pressure. However, a quick fix does not equal a minor issue. Driving on underinflated tires can be dangerous and costly. In addition to premature tire wear and decreased fuel economy, driving on underinflated tires can negatively affect vehicle handling and in some cases, overheat tires to the point of blowout.

If the last time you checked your tire pressure was over the summer, the air pressure is likely down at least 5-8 psi. Although all vehicles manufactured since 2007 are equipped with tire pressure warning alerts that notify you when a tire’s pressure drops 25 percent below its recommended psi, you should still check your tire pressure monthly with a quality tire gauge. For an accurate pressure reading, do not measure your tire pressure within three hours of driving your vehicle since tire inflation increases 2-3 psi during driving.

During the winter months, approximately four out of five motorists drive with at least one underinflated tire. Follow these tips to make sure you are not one of them!

Although these are not the only winter-related maintenance issues you may come across this winter, these are two of the most common that everyone will have to deal with at some point. We hope reading this article has left you better prepared to care for your vehicle as we trudge through the remainder of the winter.