Winter car maintenance guide for the South

Tyler Wooley

Staff Writer

Those of you who grew up in the North — and those of us who lived through “The Snowpocalypse” — have seen the destructive power of winter.

Students become so enamored with everything going on around them that they forget to take care of their cars. There are some simple precautions for winter car maintenance that I think every student should do, especially considering the recent weather events.


The name speaks for itself. Some people use only water for their cars’ engine cooling systems during the summer months. Most of the time, it is warm enough to do this.

While water works when it is warm to keep your engine from overheating, temperatures below 32 degrees Fahrenheit at night can cause the water to freeze. The freezing water expands and can cause the radiator or hoses to rupture.

Mixing equal parts antifreeze and water makes the freezing temperature of the mixture drop to about negative 30 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on the exact mixture. This also means you are less likely to be stranded on the side of the road with a burst radiator or blown head gaskets. Believe me, you don’t want either.

Under pressure:

Tire pressure is as crucial and is more overlooked than anything else on this list.

When temperatures drop, air pressure drops with it. If the air pressure in your tires is too low, your ability to control the car will drastically diminish.

You should check your tires’ air pressure more often in the winter because the air is more likely to escape.

You’re as cold as ice! On the windshield:

Most cars have defrosters on the rear window, but what about the front windshield and the side windows?

Visibility out of all windows is a must, so make sure to get any ice off before you drive. If it seems like your car went through an ice age, try pouring some cold water ­— not hot water — on the windows to speed the melting process.

The drastic temperature change can cause the windshield to crack, so make sure to use only cold water.

This struggle was all too real for Jeremy Culliver, a junior business management major from Evergreen.

“I was running late for school, and my truck had frost all over it.” Culliver said. “What better way to get rid of ice than to pour hot water on it, right? Wrong!”

The hot water touched an existing crack on the windshield, and the crack spread immediately.

“This was a terrible mistake,” Culliver said. “A great lesson learned.”

If you are expecting your windshield to freeze overnight, you can also raise your windshield wipers before you go to sleep. This will keep your wipers from freezing to the windshield. You will be able to use them the next morning and not burn out the wiper motor.

Battery required:

Last, but not least, the battery. The battery is used to start your car, so if this isn’t working, you’ll notice.

Batteries lose power in the cold, so if your car’s battery was weak before winter, it is far more likely to die during a cold snap. This actually happened to me late last year. See Murphy’s law.

Most auto parts stores and mechanics will test your battery free of charge — so there is no excuse for not being able to get this done.

If you decide not to test the battery and go to crank your car and nothing happens, make sure all accessories (heater, radio, seat heaters, etc.) are turned off. This will allow the battery to focus all of its power on starting the car. Next, go straight to any auto parts store, and get the battery tested and, if necessary, replaced.

Winter should be a fun time. If you remember to take care of your car, it will be one less thing to worry about.

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