Mechanically Speaking

Mechanically Speaking: Be prepared, winter is coming soon

Other than putting on the snow tires what else is there to do?

Winter is coming. Sure, it might be warmer (could be colder) but it will still be winter. Other than putting on the snow tires what else is there to do?

Speaking of putting on snow tires. There is no need to wait for snow. Cold temperatures alone are a good enough reason to put the snow tires on. These tires stay soft at colder temperatures. Soft tires grip a cold road better.

If you take a look through your owner’s manual there is likely no winter maintenance schedule. The engine oil recommended likely covers all temperatures. The cooling system antifreeze is a 50/50 blend that is good all year round. Yes, if you bought your vehicle in Canada it was designed to live in Canada and a Kootenay winter has always been a kind of mild example of a Canadian winter.

Winter weather will likely reveal any weaknesses in your ongoing vehicle maintenance plan. There is a tendency to think changing the engine oil and filter is all that is left to keep a vehicle running but nothing could be more from the truth. Yes, a tune up is still part of a good maintenance practice. So is a good coat of wax. How about a some undercoating?

Vehicles do not demand attention like they used to. Nor do they demand attention as often. Especially if you ignore the warning lights (“It runs fine, those lights are always on”).

Old cars were brought in for service when they got recalcitrant. Stalling, bucking, jerking and not starting were regular symptoms. It would be pretty difficult to go more than a couple of years without a tune up without experiencing one of those symptoms.

Nowadays, maybe a couple of times a year, I get asked to fix a vehicle that stalls. Thus is the marvel of computerized electronic control systems. Bucking and jerking is now a symptom of driving ten years or 200 000 kilometres without a new set of spark plugs.

A vehicle that turns over but does not start again has 200 000 kilometres on the clock needs a fuel pump and has never ever even had a fuel filter replacement.

A modern day tune up has more subtle results. Fuel mileage will go up. Emissions will go down. Your vehicle will cost less to own because it will last a lot longer. That orange check engine light will not be staring you down.

Once you decide to be proactive in the tuneup department why not take it a step further. The bodies on these 21st century vehicles respond very well to just a little extra care. A good detailing twice a year and strategic application of undercoating before each winter can make fifteen to twenty years of service easily attainable.

Tuneup, tires, and wax out of the way? Remember it is cold out there. Think safety; blankets to keep warm, a first aid kit, maybe a shovel, and a flashlight. Be prepared.

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

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