MIDWINTER CAR CHECKUP
Snow and low temps can take a toll on your vehicle. Here’s how to avoid some of the most common cold-weather calamities.
By Jordan Mendoza
Congratulations: You’ve made it halfway through the chilliest season of the year. Now you just need to get through the final stretch before spring arrives in all its glory. Follow these winter maintenance tips to help keep your vehicle running smoothly—because road trip season is just around the corner.
1. Check the battery. Battery issues are the most frequent cause of breakdowns, and cold temperatures can drain batteries far faster than warm ones. You may be able to head off disaster if you simply keep your battery in good shape.
DIY: Examine the battery terminals and cables, making sure they’re tight and free of corrosion.
Take it to your Ford Dealer Service Center for a battery check if: the battery grinds or clicks when you start up, your headlights are dim or your battery is more than three years old.
2. Winterize your wiper system. It’s a good idea to install winter wipers; they’re stronger—to move snow and ice—and have an extra layer of rubber to protect against corrosion and rust. And we suggest using Motorcraft® Windshield Washer Fluid with the necessary freeze protection level for your area.
DIY: Changing your own wipers is not too tough. Just check your owner’s manual for the correct blade size and specific instructions on how to replace yours—or follow these seven easy steps. Consider Motorcraft® Winter Wipers, which have a neoprene anti-icing boot and application-driven pressure points to keep the blades on the windshield. Learn how to refill your washer fluid here.
3. Get your tires right. Winter’s icy, wet roads will affect your tires’ traction. But when are winter tires necessary? The general rule of thumb is that in areas of extreme snow and ice you should use winter tires, which are designed to push slush away and keep you on the road. In areas of light or moderate snow, go with all-season tires.
DIY: Find out which tires match your Ford vehicle and driving conditions here.
Take it to your Ford Dealer Service Center if: your alignment feels off. The Works™ package from Ford covers a tire rotation and pressure check, which can help you avoid uneven wear and increase your fuel economy.
4. Check and change your oil. Nobody wants to be stuck on the highway when it’s 10 degrees outside. So keep in mind: Colder temperatures can cause oil to thicken, which makes it more difficult for the oil to
travel through your engine...which can lead to a failure.
DIY: We recommend Ford’s Motorcraft® oil, which is specially designed to prevent over-thickening in low temperatures.
Take it to your Ford Dealer Service Center if: you want to save time and increase convenience—an oil change is included in The Works™ package.
5. Regularly check your coolant. Not only does coolant keep your engine from overheating in the summer, it prevents engine fluids from freezing in the winter. But when your coolant ages, the freezing protection can diminish. Check your owner’s manual to find out the recommended interval between coolant changes.
DIY: Monitor your coolant levels every time you fill up your tank, and top up as needed—it’s simple.
6. Inspect belts and hoses for cracks or fraying. Pliable materials in belts and hoses are more likely to get brittle and break in the winter, because the cold makes them stiffer. A damaged belt will reduce your engine’s efficiency, and a leaky hose could lead to an overheated engine and costly repairs.
DIY: Look for frays, cracking or glazed surfaces in the belt and hoses. Pinch and squeeze the belt; if it pulls more than a half-inch, it might need to be adjusted.
Take it to your Ford Dealer Service Center if: you hear squealing sounds from the engine, which could mean your belts are damaged and need replacing.
7. Pay attention to your suspension. Every time you hit a bump in the road, your suspension takes a hit to smooth your ride. And because it is located on the underside of your vehicle, the suspension is especially susceptible to damage in the winter, because of the increased grime, salt, gravel and potholes.
DIY: Perform a bounce test. First, park your car in a safe environment. Second, push firmly on one side of the vehicle. It should bounce and settle back in one smooth motion.
Take it to your Ford Dealer Service Center if: your vehicle rocks several times in the bounce test, you feel vibrations in the steering wheel or seat, or it shakes more than usual when you hit a bump.