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Winter Vehicle Maintenance: Essential Fluids to Keep Your Car Running

Winter Driving

As winter begins to settle in, your car should be prepared to face the worst of it: snow, ice, mud and frigid temperatures. Your winter vehicle maintenance depends in part on a few essential car fluids to handle the cold and prevent a possible breakdown. Four such fluids are particularly vulnerable at this time of the year.

1. Antifreeze/Coolant

Antifreeze, also known as coolant, is an essential ingredient for maintaining the temperature of key components, including your engine. That solution, however, degrades over time and must be replaced. This is easily determined by examining the color of the fluid in the reservoir — if it’s rusty or brown, then it is time to flush out the old and pour in the new.

Some antifreeze solutions are composed of a 50-50 blend of antifreeze and distilled water. If the temperature in your area occasionally falls far below 0°F, then a 60-40 or 70-30 blend offers superior protection. Use an antifreeze tester tool to ensure the correct concentration of fluid is used.

2. Washer Fluid

A man pouring washer fluid into the fluid reservoir in his car.You rely on your washer fluid to keep your windshield clear. Along with streak-free wiper blades, washer fluid helps quickly clear slush, ice, snow and mud so you can see the road ahead.

But washer fluid can freeze at various temperatures depending on the solution’s freeze point. Ethanol, methanol or ethylene glycol may be mixed with water and in greater ratios to form a unique winter blend fluid. A deicer and cleaner that’s rated to -30°F may supply just the protection you need this winter.

3. Motor Oil

You’re not due for your next oil change until spring so you should be ready to go, right? Not necessarily, especially if you live in Alaska, Minnesota or other places where temperatures may fall and stay far below zero.

Your engine is particularly sensitive at start up — precisely when it needs free flowing oil to operate. Cold weather can slow or stall oil flow and that’s when choosing an oil designed to flow more easily is important. An oil with a 5W viscosity rating is usually recommended for winter use, but a synthetic oil may provide the best protection for your vehicle. Refer to your car owner’s manual for specifics on your make and model.

4. Fuel Line

A small amount of water vapor in your fuel tank is not uncommon and typically poses no problem. However, in the winter, that same residue can freeze and clog the fuel line, keeping your car from starting.

There is a two-part solution to this problem. First, keep your fuel tank full as much as possible. That’ll keep water from forming inside the tank and moving through the fuel line. Second, add a fuel system additive. This product removes water, works as a fuel line antifreeze and cleans the fuel injector. Keep a few bottles on hand throughout the winter.

Beyond these four car fluids, your winter vehicle maintenance should include other steps to prepare your car, including checking your tires to ensure sufficient tread depth. For ultimate protection, however, winter tires — rated for severe winter duty — can be placed on all four corners. You should also update your emergency car kit, adding winter supply items such as a shovel, hat, gloves, boots, blankets, cat litter and energy bars.

Check out all the maintenance parts available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on winter vehicle maintenance, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

Matthew C. Keegan View All

Matt Keegan has maintained his love for cars ever since his father taught him kicking tires can be one way to uncover a problem with a vehicle’s suspension system. He since moved on to learn a few things about coefficient of drag, G-forces, toe-heel shifting, and how to work the crazy infotainment system in some random weekly driver. Matt is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association and is a contributor to various print and online media sources.

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