Adam’s 7 Tips for Winterizing Your Car

Replacing My Wipers for Cold Weather

With the unusually warm weather in January, I felt a bit odd posting a list of tips for winterizing your car.  Now that there is actually snow on the ground in Baltimore, and it is cold, it makes more sense posting this list.  No sense in posting a list in the Spring!

“Adam’s 7 Tips for Winterizing Your Car.”

  1. Hey, Your Car is Dirty:  This is something that is a good idea to do before it gets cold and there is snow on the ground.  (Ok, maybe I should have posted this earlier.)  It’s good to clean your car of all the road grime and dirt, because during the winter cars tend to attract more dirt.  Clean the interior of the car as well.  If you don’t have rubber floormats, I would consider buying them as it will help keep your car’s interior cleaner.  Most people don’t clean their cars during the winter, so that is why I suggest this.
  2. Ohh, My Battery Is Dead: It is a very good idea to get your battery checked or take a look yourself.  Low temperatures make it hard for the chemical reactions inside your battery to operate normally, meaning it has reduced power to get your car started.  Most auto parts stores do Free battery checks using specialized testers, and they can usually test your whole electrical system too.  If you have had trouble starting your car in the past due to the battery going dead or it has given you problems, you probably should just get a new battery.  If it is more than 3-4 years old, replace it.
  3. Get Rid Of That Battery Corrosion: Even if your battery is not that old, servicing it might be a good idea.  By that I mean making sure there is no corrosion on the terminals or cables.  If you are comfortable cleaning the terminals and battery, it is a good idea to do that yourself.  (Remember undo the negative cable first, then the positive cable.)  A quick way to get all the corrosion off is to pour warm water on top of the battery, which quickly washes away all that white sulfate deposit.  You can then take wire brush and clean the terminals and cables, ensuring you battery has a good connection.
  4. Can You See The Light?:  Having a Headlight or Taillight bulb out is an easy thing to miss. Hey, I understand!  Since the days are shorter and the nights longer in winter, it is good to make sure they are functioning properly.  Turn on your cars lights and walk around to make sure all are in working order.  Don’t forgot to check those blinkers too!  If any are out or very dim, replace it.  Then you don’t need to worry about it later.
  5. Keep Your Coolant:  You want to make sure you have a 50:50 mix of anti-freeze and water inside your radiator. If there isn’t enough anti-freeze in the mix, it could potentially freeze in the cold weather.  How do you know if you have a 50/50 coolant or anti-freeze mixture?  There are test strips and special tools to test the mixture and pH level of coolant.  I rarely see many shops using them, but you can buy them at auto parts stores.  You might want to consider doing a coolant flush if you have never done it, or if it has been 4+ years since you have flushed your coolant.  Don’t forgot to also check your hoses.  If they are bulging hard, brittle, deformed, squishy, or have hairline cracks, replace the hose.
  6. Is Your Tread Dead?: When is the last time you checked you tire pressure?  Mmm… better check it, since tires lose about 1psi for every 10 degree change in temperature.   You gas mileage will improve and your car will handle better.  Also make sure you have adequate tread and your tires are not worn-out.  If you live in climate that gets heavy snow, switching to snow tires for the winter might not be bad idea.
  7. Can You See the Road?: Wipers are very easy to overlook, but very important for inclement weather.  Check your wipers are not streaking or has rubber falling off.  If they are old and aren’t doing the job, replace them.  I recommend Bosch frame-less wipers, which last longer and work better.  I have Bosch wipers installed on my Honda Accord.  Remember to also make sure you have washer fluid.

I hope you enjoyed Adam’s Auto Advice tips!  If you have a suggestion or comment about winterizing your vehicle  leave a comment below.  Keep warm this winter and please drive safely.  You never know what’s on the road, so be prepared.

What Brake Fluid Should & Should Definitely Not Look Like

About a week ago I bleed my brakes on my car, a ’96 Honda Accord.  On the right is the old, dirty, and pretty nasty brake fluid I had in my car.  On left is brand new clear, clean, and new brake fluid, which is how all brake fluid should look.  The difference in color is very clear.

New Brake Fluid... Old Brake Fluid

The brake fluid I had in my car was obviously dirty, old, and black.  Did you know old brake fluid is a safety issue?  The reason is DOT 3 and DOT 4 brake fluid is hygroscopic, meaning it absorbs moisture.  Think of brake fluid like a sponge.  Overtime the fluid naturally absorbs moisture, which is why it must be changed.  Moisture exceeding 2% is considered excessive, and brand new brake fluid has about 1.5%-1.65% moisture.  Brake fluid is designed to have a high boiling point due to immense heat generated when braking.  Moisture causes the normal brake fluid boiling point to drop, which can lead to brake fade or failure in extreme cases.

Contaminated brake fluid can also potentially affect the performance of your brakes and damage parts.  All that dirt and moisture was moving through the brake lines, calipers, and wheel cylinders.  When the dirty brake fluid was going through the ABS Actuator, delicate solenoids and motors can behave unpredictably.  (My brakes work much better now that I flushed my brake system.)

It is easy to tell when your brake fluid is dirty, but how can you tell when you brake fluid has moisture?   There are specialized strips to test the moisture content in your brake fluid, but no shop I have seen uses them.  They will usually see people with brake fluid pictured on the right, and just recommend a brake flush.  You could buy these strips in an auto parts store if you are curios to know.

Most manufacturers recommending flushing your system of old brake fluid and replacing it every 30,000 miles or 2 years.  I think this is a good rule of thumb and should keep your vehicles brakes working well.

I thought this would serve as a good lesson.  Hopefully you will change your brake fluid and not let it get this dirty!