From most automobile manufacturer’s maintenance perspectives, a Canadian winter qualifies as severe service. This winter will definitely take a little extra life from your automobile.
You can, minimize the damage with a little care.
Wash your car! Yes it might seem pointless because on the way back from the car wash it will end up looking just as bad as before you washed it.
Do not be deceived. The washing process removed a layer of salt and road film that was working its way into your paint. A good wash followed by a quick spray on wax or clear coat protectant will help your finish to repel salt and road film.
Just remember to do the washing when the weather is warm enough so the vehicle can completely dry before freezing temperatures take hold again.
When you do wash your vehicle, if possible wash off the bottom. Get into and under the wheel wells to remove built up piles of salt and sand that accumulate in the many crevices that constitute the vehicle’s underbody. Moist piles of salt and sand provide a perfect environment to accelerate corrosion.
When washing in and around your wheels, you must do a very thorough job. Winter roads tend to fill the inside of the wheels with an even coating of sand salt which maintains balance.
When attempting to wash this slurry out of the wheels, if any material is left on the wheel it will make that wheel unbalanced. The next drive you take you will wonder what is wrong with your vehicle as it shakes rattles and rolls down the highway. Only complete removal of the offending material will bring back the smooth ride you expect.
Be careful parking your vehicle in snow-filled parking spots. Your vehicle is very likely equipped with some plastic panels under the front. These pieces tend not to be as strong as they should be. If the snow is soft enough they might survive the way into to the parking spot.
On the way out is another story though. When the plastic is cold and brittle and catches a chunk of solid snow, it could be the last you see that panel.
When these pieces are missing, more trouble can be on its way. These panels control airflow into and around the vehicle. They feed air to radiators for cooling. They sometimes duct air to cool brakes. They even influence aerodynamics which at higher speeds can affect your vehicle’s handling and performance.
The cooling issues may not even be noticed until summer returns and you notice your trusty steed does not run as cool as it used to.
One system on your vehicle that tends to take the brunt of winter is the wiper system. If they are not wiping off rain or snow, they are wiping that wet slime coming from vehicles in front or the ones going by. Because the wipers are always being used, sometimes we forget to shut them off when we park the vehicle. As the vehicle sits between use the snow or ice that accumulates on the windshield freezes effectively gluing the wiper arm to the windshield.
When you get back in your vehicle and turn on the key there may be a quick little snap and one or both of your wipers will no longer move. We repair a lot of wiper systems in the winter.
Trail’s Ron Nutini is a licensed automotive technician and graduate of mechanical engineering from UBC. He will write every other Thursday. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org