Mechanically Speaking

Mechanically Speaking: Avoid using the force in cold weather

When the temperature is sub zero things break. Generally what breaks, breaks because of you.

Well it seems as if winter has us in its grip. Most of the precipitation has been falling as snow of late. Yes, the temperature is below zero. Good for skiing but not necessarily good for your car.

When the temperature is sub zero things break. Generally what breaks, breaks because of you.

One of the most broken items are parts of the window washer and wiper system. When your vehicle is parked after been driven in the snow or rain and the temperature is below zero it is not long before the wipers freeze to the windshield. It many cases your vehicle gets parked without even turning off the wipers.

The moment the key is turned on the wiper motor is energized. If you have not scraped your window and broken the bond between the windshield and the wiper, guess what? The wiper motor is going to do its best to break that bond on it’s own. In the process vital system components will be stressed.

Many times the weakest link is the connection between the wiper arm and the wiper shaft. The arms are usually made of a soft aluminum. The shaft is steel with splines like teeth to grip the wiper arm. If you are lucky the wiper shafts break free of the wiper arms. The wiper arms remained fixed to the windshield. Turn the wipers off right away.

If you are unlucky the wiper transmission may fail and if you are really unlucky the wiper motor may fail as well. The moral of the story here is take the time to scrape your windshield and gently break the wiper blades free from the frozen glass. Don’t forget about the rear wiper as well.

Frozen doors, locks and latches are the other casualties of winter. Water gets in locks and freezes. Remember lock de icer? It works. Yeah, I know, most of you have remote unlocking and locking.

Even when your door is unlocked it might not open. Water on the door seals freezes the door to the seals. Your first pull on the door does not open it. What’s next? Don’t yank on the door handle to try and force it open. That handle is cold and brittle and everything else connected to it is as well. Try another door. In most cases you will have four chances. Once in the vehicle start it and get it warming up.

As the interior warms the iced seals will thaw. If you don’t have time to wait it is better to push the doors open from inside the vehicle. Don’t push too hard though. There are more things to break.

Next on the list is windows. Windows freeze in their tracks. Similar to the doors, the window tracks have rubber sealing surfaces. A wet window will freeze to these seals. Resist the temptation to roll down your window. If you have manual windows don’t force them. Power windows? Resist the temptation to push the button. Again waiting for the interior to warm up will likely melt the bond between glass and the sealing surface.

Forcing things only breaks things. Patient shivering will pay off in the long run.

Trail’s Ron Nutini is a licensed automotive technician and graduate of mechanical engineering from UBC. E-mail:

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