Five hacks you should avoid this winter
Think twice about these tricks, whether it’s using hot water to defrost parts of your car or putting some extra weight in your trunk
As much as we to get started on our daily commutes, there are a few shortcuts you want to avoid in winter, as they seldom provide the desired outcome. If you want to save time, avoid these mistakes.
Defrosting anything frozen on your vehicle with hot water — or any temperature, for that matter. If it’s parked outside, frozen and was built within the last decade or so, adding water to a frozen anything on your car will simply compound your troubles. Windshields, trim pieces, window seals, wiper blades and arms can all crack. If you’re extremely lucky and nothing cracks or breaks due to the temperature shock, water will then likely intrude into areas where it will cause other things to freeze and take forever to thaw. Instead, use your car’s heating system to let the ice loosen from the underside.
Leave the lighter in your pocket for frozen door locks. Remember the old “heat up your key with a lighter” trick to get a frozen lock cylinder to turn? If your key has an embedded immobilizer or remote entry fob buttons, as most do, you might want to leave that trick up your sleeve. If you apply too much heat to the tip, you even risk damaging internal electronics. A blow dryer is the safest method.
If a little lube makes things better, a whole lot will solve anything. Not true. First, you get a mess from drips and stains. More importantly, too much goop will simply attract more grit and grime, thus making the problem worse.
Extra weight is nothing to shed when the white stuff piles up. Adding traction weight to a vehicle is fraught with risks — too much weight placed behind the rear axle can lessen the grip of the front wheels, thus reducing overall grip and performance. Fail to secure heavy objects in an open cabin, such as in minivan or SUV, and you’ve got lethal projectiles in a collision or rollover. If your ride really needs any extra ballast, keep the fuel tank filled.
If your battery charger has a fullpower setting, don’t turn it all the way up for a quicker recharge. Or, if it needs a boost, don’t find the vehicle with the biggest engine and let it rev. Not so fast — when trying to coax a discharged battery back to life in cold weather, pushing high voltage in can damage cells and connectors. If you’re using an adjustable battery charger, leave it set on medium to low settings for a few hours, rather than shocking it into life. Be aware that when boosting from another running vehicle, their alternators have no power output adjustment and will push full volts and their maximum amperage ratings as soon as the last cable connection is made. If the battery is frozen or close to it, this can result in cell damage. Check the battery’s casing for any bulges that may indicate frozen liquid electrolyte. The battery may need to be removed and brought into a heated area to attempt a recharge and load test. Any severe bulging usually indicates a battery that must be replaced.
Some old tricks for dealing with winter-related automotive trouble can do more harm than good.