Car Care for Winters

winter-car

Summer clothing is back in the closet and Jackets are out. Yes folks, winter is here. The onset of winter means that owners have to take extra care of their pride and joy.  Winter although gives us Pakistanis a break from nuisances like load shedding, it is bad for cars. Extremely cold weather takes its toll on both the engine and the body of the car. Older cars in particular are the worst affected.

The most common complaints in winters are hard starting, poor idling and reduced fuel average. The main reason for most of these problems is that the engine takes longer than usual to warm up and is colder than usual to begin with.  Automobile manufacturers designed their cars to be able to cope with all sorts of weather expected in that region. However with age or bad maintenance the systems designed to keep the engine smooth in colder weather slowly deteriorate. It is understandable for old carburetor engines to perform worse in cold weather, but even the newer engines which rely on electronic fuel injection are also affected.

Common causes of engine trouble in winter

The most common reason for bad performance in winters is a missing thermostat valve. Is your car taking longer to warm up than it used to, say is it taking 20 minutes to get to normal temperature, while it used to warm up within half the time when it was new? That is the symptom of an absent or bad thermostat valve. It is a popular myth being spread by mechanics that a thermostat valve reduces engine life, as a result often less knowledgeable owners allow mechanics to remove the thermostat valve, sometimes the valve just goes bad on its own.

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Contrary to this myth, the thermostat valve actually extends engine life, it also improves performance and fuel economy. Its effects are most felt in the winters. A thermostat valve costs between 800 to 2000 rupees, it is a great investment, it will save fuel and improve driving pleasure.

Carburetor engines are the worst affected in winters. They usually rely on mechanical means to control the idle speed and also the choke.  They are not very efficient to begin with. Over the years, their vacuum pipes leak and the system of pivots and linkages also loses its smoothness. This often results in a poorly functioning auto-choke.

Simply cleaning the carburetor’s body with any good degreaser and later applying some ATF on the linkages makes for a noticeable difference in the car’s drive. It is also a good idea to replace the vacuum pipes if they are very old. These jobs will probably cost less than Rs. 500 but will make the winter drive much more enjoyable.

Damage to the car’s body

Winter also adversely affects the car’s chassis. Winter fog not only poses a driving hazard but also means that water condenses in the most unexpected of places. It eventually ends up in the drainage channels. More often than not, the driver or cleaner will simply clean the car in the areas that are visible and neglect the hidden areas. This is why often the drainage channels are loaded with dirt. The condensed water does not properly get drained away, nor does it evaporate as a result, rust starts to form under rubber seals and channels.

All it takes is a nice cleaning of drainage channels once in a month followed by the application of a good quality car wax. The wax will prevent the water from staying in the channels and any tight spots. The fact that Pakistani car manufacturers usually use very little amounts of rust preventative coatings and body cavity wax makes this step very important, especially if you intend to keep the car for a long time.

It is also a good idea to invest in a fiberglass shade to extend your garage to fully cover your car. This will protect the body from moisture, in fact, it will also be good in summers where it will protect your car from the sun. Moisture not only promotes rust but also reduces the life of any wax, sometimes wrongly referred to as “polish”, applied to the car so it looks worse and the paint also fades away earlier.

Sticking Door Seals

The rubber seals attached to the insides of the doors also tends to stick to the car’s body in very cold weather, it makes opening the door harder and might even cause the rubber to  crack and in severe cases, the rubber seals just rip apart.

The solution is amazingly simple, the first step is to clean with a vey gentle soap solution, then dry it with a clean cloth or towel, apply any dashboard protectant (I would prefer something from Mothers), let it penetrate, ideally overnight. Gently rub the rubber with a clean cloth in the morning and wipe it out.

Now comes the weird part, put some talcum powder on a clean cloth and apply it to the seals. This may sound ridiculous, but some car manufacturers actually advise this, and it works.

Precautions

1. It is a good idea to check your battery voltage and gravity as winter arrives. A weak battery might work fine all summer but might give problems in winter.

2. Jumper cables must be a part of your car’s toolkit. You might need them when you least expect it.

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3. Use some windshield washer fluid rather than just plain water. When it is foggy you need as much visibility as you can get.

4. Keep a clean towel inside the car, in case you need to clean the windows from inside.

5. If your windshield becomes foggy from the inside, use heater with A/C  to clear it (yes, I am not mad). The A/C will remove moisture from the air.

That’s all folks, enjoy the winter motoring.

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