Getting Your Vehicle Ready for Wisconsin Winter
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Getting Your Vehicle Ready for Wisconsin Winter

Winter is here, and that means cold temperatures, snow, and ice. While there isn’t anything you can do to improve driving conditions, preparing your car for the weather can make your drives safer and more comfortable.

Wipers

Consider upgrading to winter wipers: they have a boot that covers the frame to keep it from freezing up in cold weather. Beam-style wipers are also a good choice as they replace the frame with a thin strip of spring steel to push the blade against the windshield. As for washer fluid, make sure you’re using a winter formulation: that bottle of clearance summer fluid at your local parts store can turn slushy in low temperatures.

Tires

Tire chains are quickly becoming a thing of the past because they can’t come close to the performance of modern snow tires. New tire designs use a tread material with micropores that wick away moisture and have tall tread blocks that push snow and water away, greatly increasing road contact when compared to all-weather tires. The tire compound also uses a mixture of materials that stay pliable at low temperatures, improving grip even when the roads are dry.

Snow tires are easy to identify thanks to a mountain and snowflake logo on the sidewall. Some tires also have “M+S” printed on the sidewall. This stands for “Mud and Snow,” but it only refers to tread depth, not cold weather performance.


Battery

Now is a good time to have the health of your battery checked. While you can test voltage with a multimeter, a professional battery tester puts an electric load on the battery to simulate a start. If the battery is out of warranty, now is a good time to replace it. This is easy to check as the purchase date should be on a sticker on the top of the battery.

Cleaning off corrosion will give the battery a better connection to the electrical system to make the most of the power available, while a battery blanket can keep the battery warm, increasing the power for starting the engine.

Rustproofing

Cars don’t rust as readily as they used to thanks to galvanization: during production steel components get a thin layer of zinc that acts as a barrier, preventing the interaction between oxygen and iron that forms rust. However, if that layer is damaged, it gives a place for rust to get a foothold and spread beneath this protective coating. If your vehicle is older or has had body damage in the past, it’s a good idea to have a professional rustproofing.

Oil

Some manufacturers recommend switching to a lower viscosity oil in winter while using a synthetic oil will keep the viscosity closer to its winter rating as temperatures dip. This takes the strain off the starter and helps oil circulate through the engine faster, reducing wear.


Fuel

Moisture from the air inside the fuel tank can precipitate out as temperatures drop. This can cause a gas line to freeze which may keep your car from starting. The warmer the air is, the more moisture it can hold, making this a bigger problem for cars stored in a heated garage. Keeping the tank at least half full will reduce the air and water inside, stopping this problem.

Block Heater

Despite the name, the heater isn’t directly heating the engine block. Instead, it’s heating the coolant or the oil. This doesn’t just make the engine easier to start, it gets up to temperature faster so the engine heat can be used to warm up the cabin. If your vehicle doesn’t already have a heater, consider having one installed: there are several factory and aftermarket options available.

Consider plugging the heater into a timed outlet: the heater doesn’t need to run any longer than four hours to get the engine warm, so you can save some electricity by having it turn on a few hours before you need to leave in the morning.

Air Conditioner

What does your car’s air conditioner have to do with winter weather? This device doesn’t just cool air, it also removes moisture. When you turn on the defroster, the A/C switches on to blow dry air onto the windshield to defog it faster. If you didn’t get your air conditioner serviced this year, it’s a good idea to have this done before winter storms hit.

Before or After an Accident, Turn to Merton Auto Body

We’ve been open for over 70 years, but that doesn’t mean we’re stuck in the past: we’re an I-CAR Gold Class certified shop, which means our technicians are constantly learning the latest techniques in collision repair to get your car fixed right the first time. Thanks to our Autobody Estimating Center, we can get work approved by your insurance company immediately, letting us repair your car as quickly as possible.

We also offer services that can help you prevent damage to your car: we can rustproof your vehicle, perform a wheel alignment and even polish your headlights so you have more visibility in winter weather. To learn more, visit our website at MertonAuto.com or stop by our Sussex, WI location on Moraine Dr. We proudly service the Lake Country and Waukesha County areas, including Oconomowoc, Delafield, Hartland, and Pewaukee.

 

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