Common Winter Vehicle Maintenance Problems

After a busy holiday season, your vehicles have been hit hard with harsh winter conditions. It is no wonder you may encounter some vehicle maintenance issues. Here are some tips for combating common winter vehicle problems.

1. Dead Car Battery Dilemma

During freezing temperatures, batteries are more demanding in terms of energy required for normal driving activity. Consequently, dead batteries are a common occurrence in the winter. A jump-start may be necessary, which requires another vehicle and jumper cables. If friends or family aren’t available to assist in jump-starting your vehicle, call a local auto garage, auto club such as AAA, or roadside assistance, if available.

Proper Precautions

  • Check the life of your battery and replace in a timely manner. Batteries typically last from three to five years.
  • Store jumper cables in your trunk and keep LOCTITE® Insulating & Sealing Wrap on hand to insulate jumper cables so they don’t wear down as fast.
  • Keep the name and phone number of your local auto garage or auto club in your wallet or glove compartment.
  • Check battery cables for any substances that can cause corrosion, which depletes battery energy. These can be removed with some baking soda, water, and a toothbrush.
  • Low battery fluid can be filled with distilled water carefully poured into battery ports.

2. A Car That Just Won’t Start

If your car is left outside overnight, you may experience some difficulty with start-up. If your car fails to start, turn the key and hold it for no more than 20 seconds. Do not continuously crank your key in the ignition if the car fails to turn on. Ensure all accessories that may strain the battery are turned off; this includes radio, heater, wiper blades, cigarette lighter, and any lights in or on the car. If the engine still fails to turn over, a jump-start may be necessary.

Proper Precautions

  • Turn all accessories (radio, heater, wiper blades, etc.) off before turning off your vehicle completely.     
  • Use a block heater. Block heaters warm your engine and oil overnight. They run on electricity and are generally inexpensive, depending on type. They can reduce the amount of time you spend warming your vehicle in the morning.
  • Get a battery blanket. A battery blanket or wrap is useful to insulate your battery overnight to maintain warmth. Remember to remove the wrap before starting your car.
  • For high-quality protection against extreme temperatures and environments, use LOCTITE® LB 8423™ (Known as LOCTITE® Dielectric Grease) as a battery terminal protector.

BONUS: Watch a video on dielectric grease below!

3. Tire Trouble

Slippery conditions and poor tire traction is a dangerous combination. Reduce speed during bad weather and, if possible, downshift to a lower gear. Tire pressure decreases as temperatures drop. If your tire pressure is low, stop into a gas station for a quick boost. There is a white sticker on the side of your driver’s door with the recommended tire pressure for your front and rear tires. Your car owner’s manual should also contain this same information.

Proper Precautions

  • Invest in a good set of snow tires for the winter season or assess the need for studded tires, depending on your vehicle.
  • Replacing all four tires, rather than just the rear or front, with winter tires is beneficial.
  • Check tire pressure periodically; generally every 10-degree temperature decrease results in one lost pound per square inch (psi) of pressure.

4. Frozen Gas Line

Condensation from changing temperatures creates water that can freeze and prevent the flow of gas in your vehicle. A local shop may need to tow your car to a garage, depending on how much water is in your gas line. Keeping your car in a warm area may be the best measure to take in the un-freezing process.

Proper Precautions

  • Keep your gas tank full or at least above half during the winter.
  • Add dry gas additive, or gas line antifreeze, to your gas tank to help prevent freezing in cold temperatures. Some gas stations may add an anti-freeze to their gas, so check before putting in your own additive.

5. Frozen Windshield Wipers

If you find your windshield wipers are sticking, be careful not to pry them off, as it could damage the rubber. Set your defroster to high to loosen the blades, and clear off excess snow on your vehicle while it is warming. If you are having trouble with your rear window defroster, the LOCTITE® Rear Window Defogger is a complete kit that provides a quick and easy fix for damaged rear window defogger tabs.

Proper Precautions

  • Prior to expected snow or freezing conditions, turn wipers off before turning off your car completely.
  • Lift your windshield wiper arms upright (off the windshield) if snow or ice is expected.
  • Invest in winter windshield wiper blades that have a thick layer of rubber to keep snow and ice buildup to a minimum.
  • For windshield wiper projects and repairs, LOCTITE® Super Glue Professional is a helpful tool as it is moisture resistant, dries clear and can withstand freezing temperatures.
  • Keep your windshield-washer reservoir filled with fluid containing an antifreeze agent

6. Cracked Windshield

This could be due to any number of events. Avoid driving with a cracked windshield, especially if the crack impairs your view. Place clear tape over the area to prevent debris that could make the repair process more difficult. Do not let a small crack go untreated, and be sure to use caution when driving in harsh conditions. A safe and easy-to-use tool when tackling a “bull’s-eye” in your windshield is the LOCTITE® Windshield Repair Kit, specially made for use by car owners.

7. Radiator Difficulties

Lack of coolant can cause your engine to overheat. Refill the antifreeze in your car frequently to prevent freezing in your radiator, which can cause your engine freeze-out plugs to crack. This can be an expensive repair. Hoses should be checked at maintenance visits to ensure rubber is not soft.

Proper Precautions

  • Use a 50/50 water-to-antifreeze ratio, or buy premixed fluid.
  • Check and fill antifreeze on a regular basis through your overflow bottle.
  • LOCTITE® 565™ Thread Sealant is a high-performance sealant ideal for application to threaded coolant lines and fittings.

Additional Winter Tips

  • Avoid using your emergency brake/parking brake in the winter as it can freeze and often will not release.
  • Check headlights, taillights and brake lights on a regular basis and keep them clear of dirt and snow.
  • Keep a snow scraper in your car.
  • Clear snow off the roof of your car to prevent accidents.

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