WINTER? BRRRRRRING IT ON!
After a long, dry and hot summer and a very dry and warm autumn during our pandemic lockdown we are now well and truly into winter with the first of the snowfall in the south and temperatures dropping in the north.
It’s highly probable, in fact, that by the time you read this he North Island has also had a good dump of snow. While we might prepare ourselves for winter topping up the firewood supplies or filling the gas bottles for gas heaters, candles and torches at the ready when the power goes out, do you prepare your vehicle for the winter season? If not, why not?
There are a few things we should do to ensure safe and reliable motoring on and off road during the winter, especially with our 4WDs which tend to venture into the worst of the winter conditions. Maintenance is a good start ensuring all fluids are correct for the zero and sub-zero temperatures, especially the antifreeze in the radiator. Antifreeze weakens and loses its effectiveness over time so it needs to be up to strength for winter.
The start of winter is also a good time to replace those wiper blades as once snow and ice get onto the windscreen the blades are going to deteriorate, so start with good ones. Top up the washer fluid bottle and add something like Bars Bugs windscreen cleaner. A combination of cold, wet conditions and greasy windscreens causes smearing on the screen in certain light conditions. Clean the windscreen and interior glass with a good automotive glass cleaner.
The colder temperatures tend to mean your battery has to work harder often causing it to fail earlier than expected. So it is a good idea to get your battery tested, especially if you are doubtful about its performance, and replace it if necessary. Inspect and clean the battery terminals ensuring they have a good contact on the battery.
Winter is when batteries fail the most so it’s worth keeping a set of good quality jumper leads in the vehicle and they just might get you or someone else out of a spot of bother.
Brake fluid is another thing to consider as brake fluids are usually Glycol-ether (DOT 3, 4, and 5.1) which are hygroscopic (water absorbing), meaning they absorb moisture from the atmosphere under normal humidity levels
It’s bad enough that we punish the vehicles in mud, water, rivers, etc, but add winter’s damp, wet atmosphere and the brake fluid absorbs moisture and possibly degrades. So – again – it’s a good idea to change the brake fluid for winter, especially important with more modern vehicles with ABS braking, traction control and stability control as these systems often use micro-valves and require very rapid activation.
On the subject of moisture keep the fuel tank more than half full and if parking a vehicle up over winter fill the tank completely. When there is empty space in the fuel tank moisture will start to build up and this can dilute fuel as well as affecting such items as in-tank fuel pumps. Get enough moisture in the tank and it can potentially freeze and the damage could be worse so the more fuel in the tank the less water can build up.
While you are under the bonnet checking fluids and battery also check the belts and hoses. OK, they should get checked during regular servicing but an additional inspection doesn’t hurt. Check belts for fraying and cracking and replace if necessary.
Just as we should have an emergency kit at home, so you should have one in the vehicle in case of breakdown or emergency. How often have you watched the TV news and seen vehicles lined up waiting for hours due to road closure, accident or flooding. A kit should include a blanket, spare warm clothes, a torch with spare batteries, a high visibility vest or jacket and some food, snacks and drink. Because you have a four-wheel drive of course it goes without saying that your emergency kit should also include a first aid kit.
When driving roads in wintery conditions don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you will be better off because you are driving a 4WD. Icy and wet slippery roads offer little in traction so slow it down and avoid sudden turning or braking that will cause you to skid; accelerate smoothly and brake gently. Increase your following distance as it takes longer to stop.
In areas where ice and snow are on the road NZ uses grit and an anti-icing agent called Calcium Magnesium Acetate (CMA) which can either be applied in granular or liquid form. CMA is most effective when used as a pre-treatment just prior to the onset of freezing conditions but is also a de-icer along with grit. If there is grit on the roads, drive on the actual grit where possible and not in wheel tracks to maximise the effect.
A little time spent ensuring your four-wheel drive is prepared for winter will ensure you safe travels on and off the road. Now I am off to fill tanks of the fleet at the Muir Estate with cheap fuel ready for winter.