Top 5 Things to get Your Car Ready for Old Man Winter | Harold Zeigler Newsletter Kalamazoo MI
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Date posted: December 28, 2012

Top 5 Things to get Your Car Ready for Old Man Winter

This article is intended as an informative guide, for definitive answers please see a professional, licensed  mechanic.

My parents taught me to be prepared. My mom told me to always have pre-cooked chicken breasts in the freezer in case of unplanned dinner guests and to always have 3 months’ worth of expenses in the bank in case of an emergency . My Dad taught me to always have a plan “B”, a pair of winter boots and a blanket in the trunk when travelling, along with a gas tank and a jug of water. But what they didn’t prepare me for was how to get my car up to snuff when Old Man Winter comes knocking.  Even though we’re currently experiencing some very mild winter weather, it’s December in Michigan and it only takes the blink of an eye for a lake effect storm to brew up and cause havoc on the highways. So, using that old fashioned preparedness training,   I took some time today to talk to our service advisors and mechanics about what they do to get their cars ready for winter. They had 5 significant things to focus on


#1- Tires; it’s where the rubber meets the road.

Or at least that’s what you hope for when you’re facing wet, icy or snow covered roadways. One of the most significant signs that your tires need to be replaced is tread depth. Tread depth can be measured by a tool called a depth gauge, but there is an easy convenient way to get the same information.  Corey Saganski, Honda Service Advisor at Zeigler taught me the penny test. Take a U.S. penny and place it with Lincolns head facing you, into the tread of your tire. As a general rule if you can see the top of Lincoln’s head or the copper above it, it’s time to replace the tires. If the hair on his head is partially visible, start shopping and if you cannot see the hair on Lincoln’s forehead your good to go. You should check this in various spots to ensure even tread depth. If it’s not even, or is wearing out faster than expected you may need an alignment or suspension work


#2- Windshield and Rear Wipers- Seeing is believing.

Safely navigating through sleet, snow and traffic means being able to judge what is around you and seeing clearly in weather conditions is first and foremost.  James Wilson, one of our top mechanics advises that “Winter makes the job of a wiper blade difficult as freezing temps can cause rubber to become hard and brittle, causing it to crack and split which prevents it from making full contact with the glass”  the primary job when moving rain, snow, sleet or salt spray out of your line of vision. An easy test to check if you need to replace them is to simply start up your windshield fluid spray onto a dry windshield. If there is any streaking, chattering or catching- it’s time to replace them before you’re hit with a big splash of road slush.


#3 Cooling System- It’s a Fluid motion

Despite the name, your cooling system has as much to do with warming up your car in the winter as it does cooling it in the summer. According to Joe Conklin, one of our Master Mechanics, the quality of your coolant fluid has a huge impact when starting your car in cold weather. To run optimally he says “The system must reach a “closed loop stage” of operation, meaning that the fuel is burning efficiently and the system is working at performance levels. Until the car warms up, the O2 sensor allows the vehicle to run richer, using more gas and causing wear and tear if it goes on too long.” Having a coolant fluid check will determine if it has the right balance of water to coolant ratio for higher freezing point during the winter. When the balance is off, the coolant might freeze at a warmer temperature putting you in jeopardy when the thermostat dips. In the same vein all other fluids like brake, transmission, power steering and washer fluids become more viscous and do not perform as well in cold weather and should be tested and changed where necessary.

#4 Battery

Ever have the experience of being stuck in the cold too long and you begin have trouble thinking straight? That’s because your brains neurons are firing at a slower pace. The same thing is true for a battery, which is simply a can of chemical reactions producing electrons. The colder it is, the slower the production of electrons and harder it is to fire the spark plugs to get the pistons moving in the engine.

According to Interstate Batteries website ( )your vehicle’s battery loses 33 percent of its power when the temperature dips below freezing, and over 50 percent of its power when the temperature falls below zero.

Having a battery load test done will determine how much firing power you have to get the engine to turn over in cold weather.

#5 Check drive belts, clamps and hoses

Much like your windshield wipers which become brittle and can crack in cold weather, belts, clamps and hoses are made of rubber which is susceptible to damage during winter weather. To add injury to insult, harsh road salt and de-icing agents like calcium chloride can cause corrosion of belts and hoses. Winter conditions are harsh enough on your vehicle and the last thing you need is for a belt to snap when you need it most.  A hose that feels rock hard or mushy is due for replacement. Leaking, visible cracks, blistering or any other visible damage on the outside of the hose would also indicate a need for replacement. See your local licensed mechanic for regular replacement at recommended intervals.

Check out these Service Department specials for ways to save money getting your car ready for winter, including a FREE WINTER INSPECTION

Service appointment
Select your repair or maintenance, find loaner car availability and keep track of service history.
Harold Zeigler Kalamazoo
Harold Zeigler of Kalamazoo serving West Michigan offers great low prices, rebates, and incentives for new & used cars, vans and SUVs to all of our neighbors in Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids, Elkhart IN, Lansing and Kalamazoo. Our Expert Service & Parts staff assist our Michigan customers keep their vehicles in great shape.We at Harold Zeigler of Kalamazoo, serving Battle Creek Michigan, look forward to serving your needs and we hope that we can help you with your next new or pre-owned purchase. We have helped customers from Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids, Elkhart IN, Lansing and Kalamazoo with their needs and we look forward to helping you.
4201 Stadium Drive
Kalamazoo, MI 49008
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