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Winter Travel Preparations


Three Critical Concerns for Confident Cold Weather Travel

All vehicles need attention from time to time, but here in the wintertime your car needs extra care. For confident winter starts, it is important to keep a watch on three critical areas: the lubrication system, the cooling system and the battery. Let's take a quick look under the hood to see if you're ready for the worst of Old Man Winter.

Check Your Motor Oil

It is important to check your motor oil levels on a regular basis. Without lubrication, friction between moving parts leads to engine wear.
But it is also important to think about the type of motor oil you are using. For severe cold, there is a significant performance difference between synthetic and conventional motor oil.
Cold weather is tough on engines because of the limitations of traditional lubricants. Motor oils and greases become thicker, thus slowing starting rpm, restricting oil flow to critical engine parts, increasing wear on bearings and rings, decreasing engine life, and increasing the burden on an already overtaxed starting system.
For really cold weather, only synthetic motor oils offer the kind of performance that allows cars and trucks to start with ease. Many synthetic motor oils still flow or pump at temperatures up to sixty and seventy below zero. Synthetics have a broader service range than traditional petroleum.
The admonition to check your motor oil is intended as a reminder to not only watch fluid levels, but to consider whether your motor oil is fulfilling its lubricating function in severe weather. No sense in being stranded on an isolated road because your engine couldn't turn over.

Check Your Antifreeze

Most of us who have grown up in this hostile region are aware that inadequate antifreeze in the engine's cooling system can result in serious damage to your vehicle. When water freezes it expands, putting high stress on the corridors where it travels. A cracked engine block is not unlikely in extreme cold. Water pump failure and blown hoses are also common side effects from frozen cooling systems.
There are a number of relatively inexpensive antifreeze testers available for measuring the effective working temperature of your antifreeze. If you don't own one of these gauges, be sure to have the radiator fluid checked at your local service station to make sure it is suitable for severe cold temperatures.
In recent years there has been a growing awareness of the hazards associated with traditional Ethylene Glycol antifreeze. EG-based antifreeze is not only considered an environmental hazard and deadly for pets when spilled on the ground, it is toxic for children. What is especially bad is that Ethylene Glycol-based antifreeze has a sweet taste that invites animals and children to ingest it.
An alternative to Ethylene Glycol antifreeze is the new Propylene Glycol which is generally regarded as safe even in the event of accidental ingestion. In addition, it has an unpleasant taste, making it unlikely that animals or children will drink any appreciable amount. Propylene Glycol provides excellent protection against freezing, boiling and corrosion. In addition, the new AMSOIL Propylene Glycol Antifreeze is compatible with all other antifreeze products and does not require a complete system flush before usage.

Check Your Battery

The ideal operating temperature of your car battery is 80 degrees F. As temperatures drop, so does the efficiency of the battery. In very cold weather, the battery's power output can be diminished to as little as ten percent.
What's more, as batteries age their strength is further reduced. When it is very cold and your older battery has lost a measure of its cranking capacity, you have a situation where it may not have the power to turn over the engine.
Cold winter starts are harsh. If the motor oil is not fluid, and the battery worn down, you may want to have your cellular phone handy in case you need to call for help.

Be Prepared

It never hurts to be prepared, as the Boy Scouts are fond of saying. Even when you follow these routine maintenance checks it is still wise to stock the usual survival supplies as standard procedure for your vehicle - shovel, bag of sand or grit, toolbox, jumper cables, fuel de-icer additive, large flashlight and road flares. Extra blankets, clothes, food, fluids and a first aid kit are a life insurance policy that you hope you won't ever need, but sometimes can't afford to be without.
Good snow tires, and a few seasons of experience driving on slippery roads also helps...and knowing when not to attempt driving at all.





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