Advice from Hank – Winter Myths

There are a few myths floating around about how to care for your car during the winter months. Below, we’ll discuss a few of them and give you the truth.

HAN_0010-shovelingCarrying sandbags in my trunk gives me much better traction during the winter.
Whether carrying sandbags really helps depends on what you drive. Older cars were front-heavy, and they had rear-wheel drive. In this case, it would make sense to have a few sandbags in your trunk to help you climb a snowy hill. However, most cars today are front- or all-wheel drive. They’ve even devloped more perfect weight distribution in big rear-wheel drive cars with better tires to improve traction. In this case, extra weight will only make it more challenging to control front-wheel drive cars in the winter. You may even over-steer on slippery surfaces. If you do want to add weight to a rear-wheel drive car or truck, add the weight as far forward as possible, so you’ll get the traction without the weight sitting so far back.

During my lunch break, I always run out to the parking lot to run my car for 10 minutes. I do that because I want to make sure it starts after work.
If a car starts in the morning after sitting in frigid cold temperatures all night, it should start after just eight hours in an office parking lot. However, if it doesn’t and you need to fire it up every four hours, check your plugs and get it running right. If you start a cold engine and just idle it for 10 minutes every day, you could dilute the oil with unburned fuel which could cause engine wear – and you’re needlessly burning expensive gasoline.

I’m really worried about my battery over the winter. It seems like batteries always die due to frigid temperatures. I know a few people who have had battery issues because cables came loose. 
Winter does challenge batteries for a couple reasons: (1) It’s more difficult to turn over an engine in cold weather because the oil has turned to molasses. So, it takes more current from the battery to get it going. (2) Moreover, the battery struggles to produce the extra current because it’s cold. Chemical reactions are slower at lower temperatures, so your battery is forced to work even harder to overcome the cold. Cables will loosen in the winter because it takes more current to start an engine. If the connection isn’t perfect, the clamps will heat up with more current pumping through them. Then, the connection will cool, and that heating and cooling creates a poor connection which could keep the battery from fully charging. With an uncharged battery, it’s more susceptible to freezing and damaging it internally. Aside from that, just watch your cable connection on your battery, and make sure they’re solidly attached. With that in mind, more cars won’t start on cold winter mornings, but more batteries fail in during the summer because the heat boils the battery dry.

My wiper squirters stopped working after a few days of intense snowfall. I thought they had frozen, but someone else told me the sediment in the tank clogged it.
If your washer nozzle froze, they would freeze almost immediately, not after a few days. Also, sediment would clog your nozzles all the time if that were the case, not just during winter snowfall. It’s probably snowmelt reflux. Most cars have a check valve in the washer-nozzle line to keep some fluid in the lines after washing the windshield. If the check valve malfunctions, the fluid will go back into the tank, so to speak. When the fluid goes back into the reservoir, it creates a suction and can bring melted snow or ice into the nozzle. Juse replace the check valve if your washer nozzles don’t seem to work correctly.

No matter how well I scrape them, my wiper blades always accumulate ice during extremely cold temperatures. I can even put the heat on high, and in the middle of my commute, the wipers start streaking greatly reducing visibility. I want to look into special wiper blades or a fluid additive to prevent this from happening. I’m not sure what to do.
Frigid cold weather can overpower the freezing point of washer fluid, which will turn it to slush on your windsheild. Just keep the windsheild as warm as possible. Turn up the defroster to the warmest setting at the highest fan speed. Fresh wiper blades could help too. You could also try cleaning the washer blades with a paper towel or treating the windshield with Rain-X because it’ll leave less washer fluid on the glass to freeze. Finally, if you’re desperate, put methyl alcohol in the fluid tank instead of washer fluid. Typically, washer fluid is 40 percent methyl alcohol and 60 percent water. Increasing the concentration of alcohol will bring down the freezing point. Visit your local hardware store for methyl alcohol. It’ll be in the paint department. Just get some and pour it into the the washer fluid tank.

With those tips in mind, we hope you find getting your car through a winter an easier proposition.  Find all your car needs at your local Hardware Hank, shop local.


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