Sort through winter car myths and warm up to winter driving

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A string of Austin Minis, driving down a snowy road.

Another winter car myth: Mini caravans do not patrol snowy mountain roads like St. Bernards with brandy barrels. (Photo Credit: CC BY-SA/Derrick Mealiffe/Flickr)

It’s inevitable: Winter weather changes the relationship between you, your car and the road. That’s why it’s important to know the truth about winter car myths. Debunking the falsehoods about such things as visibility, engine issues and snow traction help you  focus on what’s important – staying on the road and out of snow berms.

Sandbags for snow traction could mean no traction

Popular Mechanics suggests that you consider what you drive before you assume that sandbags will help with snow traction. If you have a front-heavy, rear-wheel drive with discount tires, another 100 pounds can indeed help. But with modern front- and all-wheel drive vehicles with all-season radials, carrying around sandbags can actually hinder snow traction because they may cause you to oversteer on icy roads.

Warming up the engine

An engine that starts in the morning after sitting all night in the cold probably doesn’t need to be started during the day to ensure it won’t freeze up. If your car needs such babying, change the spark plugs to fix the real problem. All the “warm up” starts succeed in doing is diluting the oil with unburned fuel, which can lead to additional engine wear, not to mention wasted gasoline.

Winter is not the hardest season for batteries

If the oil has gummed up, it takes more current from the battery to get the engine to turn over. Thus, there’s more of a battery drain. Add the slower chemical reactions inside the battery because of the cold, and you have a double whammy. However, more batteries fail in summer months than during the winter. Intense heat can boil a battery dry, so keep up your winter and summer car maintenance.

Wiper fluid and windshield wiper trouble

Many people assume that if the wiper fluid nozzle stops working during the winter, it’s because it has frozen over. However, it’s the grunge hidden in that icy sludge that has gummed it up, in most cases. Clean the nozzles. And if your wiper fluid system isn’t retaining fluid, check for leaks around the plastic gasket where the hose attaches to the wiper fluid reservoir tank.

Windshield wipers that have iced over will cause streaking, so run that defroster. Window treatments like Rain-X can help, as can new wiper blades.


Popular Mechanics

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