Getting Your Car Through Winter

Don’t be fooled by the recent break in the weather. It’s not even February yet, and the long-range forecasts predict more arctic plunges; maybe not as brutal as those we experienced earlier this month, but winter still has several weeks to go. So does your car.

If you own a home, your car is your second-biggest investment. If you rent, it’s likely the most expensive thing you own. Either way, it’s well worth it to take care of that investment, and winter weather can be as brutally hard on your car as it is on you.

Therefore, Billshark wants to offer some winter-weather tips that can end up saving you money in the long run.

  1. Get a check up

A quick trip to your service station can prevent winter car problems. Check for anti-freeze levels, tire traction and pressure, be sure you’re using the correct grade of oil, and just generally have them check for any pending problems. It’s easier and cheaper to fix something before it breaks down than after, especially if you’re stuck on the side of a snowy road.

  1. Do not warm up your car

Maybe you need a little extra time to warm up on winter mornings, but your car doesn’t. Some jurisdictions have laws against this, because car thieves take advantage of idling cars, hop in them and take off. Ecologists don’t approve of the practice because of the unnecessary pollution it adds to our air. In addition, it wastes gasoline and therefore costs you money.

But in case all these reasons aren’t enough to make you reconsider warming up, take it from the experts: It damages your car. Unless your car is from the 1980s or earlier and has a carburetor, the newer electronic fuel injection systems take care of getting the right air and fuel mix without a long warm-up period. Idling strips oil from the cylinders, spark plugs, and pistons, and causes them to wear out faster. It can also damage the exhaust system, and dilute the oil with unburned fuel, which can eventually harm the engine. All this will cost money to repair.

If you’re warming up your car to make it all nice and toasty when you get in, put on more clothing, but don’t let it sit much longer than 30 seconds before starting to drive. In sub-zero temperatures, one to two minutes of idling is still long enough.

  1. Baby your battery

Try to keep the car out of the cold as much as possible. If you don’t have a garage, at least try to pull as close to a building as possible. Another alternative is a car cover or tarp, anything to protect it from the elements.

Be sure to check the cables and connections for wear, and look for corrosion. Replace worn parts and clean off any corrosion on the battery.

Check the date on your battery. In especially cold climates, battery life can be as short as three years. A new battery costs less than $150. Unless you have a roadside assistance plan, a call for a dead battery can cost at least half that.

  1. Wash off road salt – often

Far worse for the life of your car than the cold is road salt and brine, the white film that coats your car’s exterior after the storm is over. Salt causes rust which will eventually corrode everything underneath your car: suspension, muffler, couplings, you-name-it. If it’s metal, salt and brine will eat it away. Brine, in fact, is even worse than salt because unlike salt, it stays wet and continually corrodes the metal it comes in contact with. Never drive behind a salt truck or one that is laying down brine (those stripes you see on the road before the storm).

Wash your car at least once a week during the winter, especially the undercarriage, to remove the corrosive salt and brine. The cost of a car wash is far less then the cost to replace your muffler.

And, as always, look to Billshark for the myriad ways we have to save you hundreds of dollars on your bills.

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