Common Winter Weather Car Maintenance Mistakes

1132290_17725639Even drivers who take precautions through proper maintenance can make damage-incurring mistakes. While safe driving practices and regular maintenance are the most reliable ways to protect your vehicle, the only way to foolproof your vehicle this winter is to exercise a little common sense.

Mistake #1. Letting your car run idle to heat up in the morning.

Contrary to popular belief, this is not a good idea. Letting your car run idle to raise the temperature is the most inefficient method to heat your car. It also wastes gas, and it can overwhelm your car’s catalytic converter, which needs high exhaust temperatures to work properly. If you consistently leave your engine idling in cold temperatures for long periods of time, your converter can become “plugged” which will lead to poor gas mileage and dirtier exhaust.

Also, unless you have a garage, leaving your engine running as a way to heat your car generally means that you will be leaving your car unattended. This is not a good idea for the obvious reason that if someone wants to steal your car, the thief will have easy access and a warm ride to the nearest chop shop.

Mistake #2. Leaving your car parked with a low tank of gas.

During cold winter weather, the air inside your gas tank can become moist, which can crystallize and freeze. Keeping a full tank of gas means less air and less chance of frozen fuel lines. If it’s inconvenient to keep your tank full, keep a fuel deicer on hand to add to the gas tank. Either way, it’s best to be prepared. You don’t want to be late for work because you’re waiting for your fuel lines to thaw.

Mistake #3. Using hot water to remedy icy windshields.

Many novice car owners have walked outside during the coldest days of winter only to be perplexed by a sheet of ice that has enshrouded a vehicle. But don’t reach for the kettle because pouring hot or boiling water over an iced windshield can actually cause your windshield to break. This is because the rapid change in temperature for the glass — from freezing cold to scalding hot — causes the glass to expand and contract too quickly, leading to fractures. Instead, use an ice scraper. If you find yourself unprepared, grab a CD, a CD case, a spatula, or a credit card to scrape away that ice.

Mistake #4. Neglecting your tire pressure.

Colder weather means compressed air, which means lower tire pressure. Relying on emergency lights or visibly low tires as clues to keep your tire pressure in check can be dangerous, especially for those who commute long distances to work. Tire pressure must be monitored throughout the winter, as every 10 degree drop in temperature reduces the pressure in your tires by one pound per square-inch (PSI). Keep a pressure gauge and a portable air pump in the trunk to administer on-the-spot tire pressure maintenance.

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