Winter Driving: A Fluid Situation
September 15th, 2015
At Atlanta Goodyear, we know the winters aren’t as tough here as they are in a lot of other parts of the country…but we also remember when our whole area got clobbered with that ice storm a couple of years ago. In light of that, we’d rather not any chances, so let’s talk for a minute about getting your car ready for winter.
- Cooling System – Your vehicle’s radiator, water pump, thermostat and coolant do a lot more than prevent overheating. Coolant also protects the engine in freezing conditions, but over time the antifreeze/water mixture starts to pick up corrosion and contaminants that compromise it. Your cooling system should be flushed and the coolant replaced at regular intervals. Every two years is a good rule of thumb, regardless of the number of miles driven.
- Belts and Hoses – Older vehicles had several drive belts to power accessories like the air conditioning compressor, power steering pump and water pump. Today, almost all vehicles use a single, continuous “serpentine” belt that reduces the load on the engine. That belt is smooth on the outside, with ribs on the part that faces the pulleys. With enough time and wear, the belt can start to crack, split, fray or shed its ribs, and if it fails, your vehicle loses the function of all the components it powers. It’s also essential to check the condition of your vehicle’s hoses, including the upper and lower radiator hoses, transmission cooler lines, vacuum lines and hose clamps.
- Transmission Fluid – While transmission fluid may not be a specific winterization concern, it’s still important. Transmission fluid cools and lubricates the transmission’s internal moving parts, but over time it can pick up contaminants and “varnish” that can clog valves and other critical passages inside the unit. Transmission fluid should be changed every 30-50,000 miles (check owner’s manual for intervals). NOTE: Years ago, there were only a few formulations of transmission fluid on the market. Today, there are more than a dozen blends, each with friction and lubrication properties for specific makes/models of transmissions. Make absolutely certain to use the right fluid for your car’s transmission – the wrong fluid can damage or destroy a transmission quickly!
- Brake Fluid – This is one that is often neglected by most drivers. It’s estimated that the average age of a car on the road today is 11.4 years, and easily half of those vehicles have never had the brake fluid changed. Brake fluid is “hygroscopic,” meaning that it attracts and absorbs water from the atmosphere. That water, suspended in the fluid, can then cause pitting, rust and corrosion on valves, calipers and other brake system parts. Even though it’s a sealed system, there are microscopic pores in rubber brake lines, seals and other parts that can admit moisture (more of a problem in humid climates). Brakes generate a lot of heat, and moisture suspended in brake fluid also means that the fluid can ‘boil’ when the brakes are under a lot of stress (i.e. mountain driving, towing, panic stops). In some cases, it can even cause vapor pockets that displace the fluid, causing a complete brake failure.
Note that bleeding the brakes and flushing fluid are two different things. Brake bleeding means evacuating air bubbles from the lines if they’ve been opened up to change a caliper or wheel cylinder, while still retaining the same brake fluid. Just remember this…for a vehicle that’s driven 10-15,000 miles per year, the brakes are applied about 75,000 times that year!
- Tires – For most drivers, all-season tires are fine for Atlanta winters; just make sure they’re inflated to the proper level and have at least 6/32” of tread depth. An easy way to gauge the tread depth is to stick a penny down in the tread grooves; if the tread reaches the Lincoln Memorial, your tread is at least 6/32”. If the tread reaches Washington’s head on a quarter, your tread depth is 4/32”. If it only comes up to the top of Lincoln’s head on a penny, your tread is down to 2/32” and it’s time to replace the tires.
If you opt for winter tires, remember that they shouldn’t be driven in temperatures warmer than about 40-45 degrees. Warmer temperatures will quickly wear out the softer tread compound of winter tires.
Some people love winter, some people hate it…but regardless of how you feel about it, your car should be ready for it! Give us a call at Atlanta Goodyear in Buckhead and let us make sure your car’s up to the demands of winter driving. Schedule an appointment for all tires and auto repair needs, today!
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