People can be fanatical about their vehicles. We get it. An automobile is an investment and you want to take care of it as much as possible. At a certain point, however, maintenance tips that seem like they could make sense are just myths and acting on them could actually do more harm than good to your modern vehicle. Naturally, you want your vehicle in perfect running order during the winter weather. So, in this post, we are going to debunk some winter weather car care myths so that your vehicle can be as dependable as possible this winter.
Myth 1: Batteries are More Likely to Die in Winter
In short, this is straight up false. It just seems that way because when you are stuck in the freezing cold waiting for help, you are more likely to remember it than if it was 70 degrees and sunny out. What’s to blame here is usually just improper battery upkeep by vehicle owners.
Most batteries have two rankings to consider: cranking amps and cold cranking amps. That second one is the full amperage the battery can generate, at peak, when the air temperature is below zero degrees Fahrenheit. By and large, most vehicle owners will never find themselves consistently in temperatures that cold. For that reason, cold cranking amps aren’t usually a factor in gas-powered vehicles. If you do happen to live in a place where the temps are consistently this low, or you drive a diesel, then you should put more stock in cold cranking amps rankings.
By the numbers, most batteries actually die in the summer months, specifically August. Yes, cold weather can deteriorate a battery’s state of charge, but that can be replenished with a simple battery charger if need be. Hot weather for extended period of time, however, can “cook” a battery’s electrolyte. When that happens, your battery loses it chemical storage capability.
So, if it’s not the battery, why don’t cars like starting in winter?
Most often, the reason a vehicle won’t start is because of the connections going to and from the battery. Regardless if you are driving a gasoline or diesel engine, the colder temps will mean that “cranking” it over to start it up will take longer. The oil in the engine becomes a bit thicker, too, which creates a little more friction during turnover. The longer the cranking time, the more power is necessary. A byproduct of that power is heat… at the connections. To be more specific, it generates more heat at the terminals and the connection on the starter solenoid. When you send more heat through the metals that are used to establish those connections, the associated cables will start to flex. If they flex often enough, they will become loose. When that happens, it means there is less charge sent to the battery during your everyday driving. Less charge than required, when it happens again and again, leads to a better being lower than it should be. Then, when it sits in the cold for a stretch, it no longer has the juice it needs to crank the engine. So the moral of the story is that if you notice that it is getting more difficult to start your vehicle in colder temps, check your connections as well as your battery.
Myth 2: You Get Better Traction from Sandbags in the Trunk
This is only true if you drive a rear-wheel drive vehicle. By and large, most cars today are front-wheel drive. Adding extra weight in the trunk can actually decrease your traction.
If you have a rear-wheel drive vehicle, added weight in the trunk helps to push the tires down and tighter to the ground, which creates more traction. With a front-wheel drive vehicle, it works just the opposite way. Added weight to the back of the car can add “lift” to the front of the vehicle. In front-wheel drive vehicles, this left puts less drive pressure on the ground and actually reduces traction.
In the end, sandbags in the trunk will only help rear-wheel drive vehicle, which, by the numbers, yours is likely not. That said, having sand in the trunk might come in handy for traction if you spread it on the ground when you find your tires in a particularly slick situation.
Myth 3: Midday Starts Keep Your Battery Charged in Winter
If your vehicle started that morning, after sitting in even colder temps over night, the odds are pretty good that it will start up just fine in the middle of the day after you have driven it to work and parked it outside or in a parking garage during the warmest part of the day. But, by all means, if you have time to kill on your lunch break and wasting gas sounds like a good time, have at it!
All snark aside, if your car is having difficulty starting after sitting for a few hours, it is likely less about the weather and more about the need for a tuneup. Check your service schedule and see if you are overdue for new filters, spark plugs, etc.
Myth 4: Your Windshield Washer Fluid is Freezing
Odds are, it’s not. Most windshield washer fluids on shelves these days contain an anti-freezing agent of one type or another. Still, sometimes extremely cold weather can be too much for the anti-freezing agent. The results is streaks on the windshield as your fluid freezes to it. To help prevent this, keep your defrost and fan both on high while you are driving. Heating the windshield this way can counteract some of the bitter cold. If this still isn’t enough, pick up some methyl alcohol from your local paint store and add some to your washer fluid reservoir. Windshield washer fluid usually runs at about 40% methyl alcohol. If you add a few more ounces to a normal-size (one-quart) reservoir, you can bump that percentage up to about 60%. Quite simply, the more methyl alcohol in the washer fluid, the less likely it is to freeze.
Myth 5: The Squirt Nozzles Freeze in Winter
If they are working fine, then suddenly stop working, your windshield washer squirt nozzles are likely not frozen. The likely culprit is that the fluid is being blocked by debris that has built up in the lines or nozzles. This often comes from reflux after the check valve on the fluid line fails.
What that means is that your washer fluid lines have a check valve that keeps the fluid from running out of the lines and back into the reservoir. This keeps the lines from sucking in dirty water and slush from your windshield. It also keeps pressure on the lines so that they stay filled with washer fluid, which contains methyl alcohol, like we just mentioned, to keep the lines from freezing.
When the check valve fails, debris can be pulled into the lines and the pressure holding the washer fluid in the line isn’t there anymore. This can lead to debris in your reservoir that, then, plugs up your nozzles when you try to use them. Further, since there is no anti-freezing agent being held in the lines, they lines can become frozen.
There is a five-minute fix for this. Just replace the check valve and leave the car somewhere warm (even in direct sunlight) to thaw. You could also run the engine to create heat that way. That can thaw the lines for you. Then just use the washers like you normally would so they can pull the fluid back in the lines to stay.
If you or someone you know is in need of commercial snow removal services, don’t hesitate to contact us online or give us a call at (517) 990-0110 today!