Winter car maintenance tips

HARARE - The cold spell experienced in most parts of the country in the past few days could signal the beginning of a long and chilly winter season.

For this week’s instalment, I thought it would be prudent to discuss various measures we can implement to keep our automobiles on the road during this winter period.

Cars, like people, don’t function well in cold weather.

Your car doesn’t like it any more than you.

To avoid being stranded by a dead battery or get into an accident because you can’t see out your windows, below are some tips to prepare you for the next big chill.

* Keep the battery in good shape

Change the battery. Mechanics recommend changing it every three years, though you could get away with five years, depending on how much you drive and how you drive. If you see a mechanic, have him or her check the battery and replace the spark plugs.

* Make sure the cables are not loose

With the engine off, see if the cables can slip free from the nodes. Don’t yank, but be firm.

Tightening the nut is easy to do and can save you from a mid-drive battery loss that requires you to get out of the car and take off your gloves.

* Check for corrosion

If there is a white powder, not unlike the dead skin of dried winter hands, around the nodes or the clamps then that could be a sign of corrosion.

If you can’t get a new battery, then at least clean the nodes and clamps with baking soda, water and a toothbrush. Loosen the cables, clean the nodes and clamps, then dry it and retighten.

l Under the hood While you’re there, check the status of your S belt, or serpentine belt. It’s the big one that is immediately visible at the front of the engine.

The visible, or back side, has grooves. If they’re cracked or worn, then it might be time to consider changing it so it doesn’t snap in a very cold weather. 

* Fill your fluids

Fill your anti-freeze. If it hasn’t been flushed in a few years, then it could use it.

Green-coloured anti-freeze is the most common; whichever colour you choose, don’t mix colours.

Coolant and anti-freeze are interchangeable terms. Coolant is typically sold premixed, that is it is half water, half anti-freeze, as it needs to be.

Anti-freeze can be pure and needs to be mixed. Check the bottle; it’ll tell you.

* Check your oil

If it’s due for a change, consider re-filling it with a lower viscosity oil.

On the bottle, it lists two numbers, or grades, the first for low temperature viscosity, the second for high temperature. 10W-30 is a common designation.

The higher the number, the more viscous, or thick it is, the less fluid it is especially in cold temps.

So you might want to consider 5W-20 or-30. That “W” stands for winter, according to Valvoline and other sources.

* Replace your wipers

You have to replace wiper blades more often than you might think. 

Researchers have found that even the best-performing wiper blades start to lose their effectiveness in as little as six months.

Streaks or missed expanses of glass are sure signs that the blades are ready for retirement.

While it’s possible to stretch their life by cleaning the rubber edge of the blade periodically with a paper towel and glass cleaner, it isn’t safe to do that all winter long.

Instead, get yourself new blades. We recommend replacing wiper blades as often as twice per year.

Most wiper blades are easy to install, and some stores will perform the replacement work free of charge.

* Tyre pressure

Having the correct tyre pressure is essential for proper handling.

A temperature change of just 10 degrees can cause a 10 percent reduction, or constriction, of air in tyres.

So tyre pressure can be affected from day to night temperature.

Check the optimal tyre pressure of your vehicle on the label inside the driver’s door frame or in the owner’s manual. Do not use the PSI on the tyre! That’s maximum capacity for the tyre, not for your car’s specific load.

* Additional preventative measures

Some mechanics recommend adding a can of fuel-line anti-freeze to the gas tank to eliminate water from the fuel lines.

If your fuel lines are already frozen, this won’t help.

Buy an emergency kit with cables, first aid kit, flares, battery powered air compressor and other things that can prevent a minor inconvenience from becoming a major problem.

* Check the clarity of all your lights

If your headlights are all fogged up, consider cleaning them with toothpaste.

I haven’t tried this yet, but hear the results are magical.

Weather conditions are variable, and all cars handle them a bit differently, so as a car owner you have a responsibility to know your car.

Till next week, drive safely!!

*For feedback get in touch on +263 772 214 432, or email

    Comments (1)

    we agreed all the journey until we got kwaTooth Paste kkkkkk.

    Mashotopiyana - 20 April 2016

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