Winter Car Myths & Maintenance

Before we begin to talk about winter car maintenance, there are a couple of winter driving myths that I want to dispel right off the bat.

Myth 1) You are safer in an AWD (All Wheel Drive)

Answer: False

This particular myth has been bolstered by some of the auto manufacturers who have linked their AWD technology to safety. In actual fact, AWD is a performance feature and not a safety feature. This particular technology only helps a vehicle to accelerate. It does not help a vehicle to steer any better or stop in a shorter distance. It all comes down to how much grip your tires develop. The tires on any vehicle can only develop a certain amount of grip and that is determined by the tire’s tread compound, tread design and the construction of the tire. Sending engine power through a tire will not magically make it develop more grip. In other words a rolling tire develops the same amount of grip for cornering or steering as a tire that has engine power going through it. A vehicle with AWD cannot make those tires develop more grip than what the tire was designed with.

The AWD technology available in today’s vehicles is amazing. It can instantly and seamlessly divert engine power to the tires that have the most grip for accelerating. The down side to this technology is it can mask just how slippery the roads really are leading to driver overconfidence. A driver in a front – or – rear wheel drive will notice the tires slipping and get an idea of how little traction the road surface offer.

Myth 2) Placing sandbags in the trunk improves winter traction.

Answer: False

This myth goes back to the days when all cars were driven by the rear wheels and before winter tires were common. Drivers placed sandbags in the trunk for a ready source of a traction aid. Cars would often get stuck on an icy patch as roads were not well salted, and drivers would get some sand and throw it under the drive wheels to allow them to get traction. Drivers found that they had slightly more traction with the sand in the trunk.

On modern cars with front wheel drive, adding weight over the rear wheels does nothing for traction. On modern rear wheel drive cars, you would have to add as many as 8 to 10 bags of sand directly over the rear axle to have a significant effect on traction.

The best way to get better traction is to get new all season or winter tires installed on all four wheels. The car will be well balanced and have plenty of traction in all winter driving conditions.

Car reliability has improved immensely over the years. This has led many drivers to take their cars maintenance for granted. We wrongly assume our car will drive fine, regardless of the weather. Being prepared for winter is not very time consuming.

Here are some basic items that need attention.

Engine oil and other fluids are the first area to inspect. The engine oil and filter should be changed and all other fluid levels and conditions inspected. Clean fluids protect the mechanical parts and prevent harmful sludge build-up.

Have the battery and alternator tested to ensure they perform to specifications. A strong battery ensures the engine starts on those cold winter mornings.

The drive belts and hoses need to be checked for any deterioration. Extreme temperatures can cause the rubber parts to crack and fail, possibly resulting in expensive engine damage.

The steering and suspension system also need to be inspected for wear and damage. Potholes put a tremendous strain on these components, and if left unchecked can lead to premature tire wear or a suspension failure. This is also a great opportunity to inspect the brakes.

Most importantly the tires need to be in good condition for the inevitable snowy roads. Winter tires are strongly recommended for maximum safety. If you choose to drive through winter on your all season tires, a technician should ensure that there is sufficient tread for snowy roads.

Lastly, the heater and defroster should be confirmed that it is working correctly. Replace worn wipers and top up the washer fluid.

All of these inspections can be performed in about one hour. Following these simple steps will ensure trouble free motoring throughout the cold winter season.

Article was written by:

Roman Soroka, Founder Team Autoworks

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