Cold Weather Car Maintenance

It can seem like our cars give us more trouble in the winter than other times of the year. They’re not falling apart, trust us, they’re just cold! We need extra clothing, home heating and several pairs of warm socks and a good coat to get ourselves through cold temperatures. Our bodies haven’t changed since summer, the temperatures have, and we have to adjust.

Unfortunately, we can’t just throw a warm down coat on our car to offset the “chill,” and help them operate efficiently. Our cars need some extra attention and care to remain in optimal operation condition when its cold outside.

With winter coming, we at Fort Collins Foreign Car Service want to make our readers aware of changes created by cold and freezing temperatures to your cars. This also applies to our winter sport vehicles.


If you own snowmobiles or other recreational winter vehicles, you know that they need a little love in between the seasons. They are mechanical machines, just like our cars, and have many of the same needs.

An obvious seasonal maintenance items you and your auto technician can go over is changing out your tires.

Most tires lose one pound per square inch (psi) for every drop of 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Be aware of the appropriate tire pressure for colder versus warmer driving conditions. If you are unsure, ask your auto technician or tire store what they recommend.

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A new winter tire is obviously best for winter use, but in deep snow even a half-worn winter tire gives the performance of a new all-season tire. A half-worn all season tire gives the performance of a summer tire, and summer tires should never be used on winter roads.

If you spend enough time in the high country, you will need some solid snow tires, and a good set of tire chains as well. If you plan to pretty much stay on the front range, some all season tires could be sufficient. Whatever the case, consult your tire store or auto technician about which options are best for your car and your winter driving plans. If nothing else, its a great time to get those tires inspected, checked, and rotated. Additionally, if there are any axle or brake problems, best to have your Fort Collins automotive shop make those repairs before you find yourself skidding on ice with ineffective brakes or a failing axle.

Check All Your Vehicles Fluids

When temperatures drop, fluids thicken. With that thickening, the fluid is more “sluggish,” slowing down its ability to flow to crucial systems to lubricate your engine. For this reason, it is crucial to keep fluids clean, the reservoirs full, and keep an eye on them. This includes:

  • transmission fluid
  • oil
  • antifreeze
  • brake fluid
  • power steering fluid

Stay On Top Of Windshield Wipers And Washer Fluid

One way to insure wiper longevity is to keep your car’s windshield clean before activating your wipers. If they have to skim through 3 inches of grit and mud, it will shred them. Besides normal wear and tear, wipers usually fail due to overuse. Keep a squeegee under your seat for real messy windshields, and clean your windshield every time you fuel up. In addition to a squeegee, invest in a good snow removal brush for your windshield and some ice scrapers. Interestingly, using a windshield visor in your car when its parked will help prevent frost from building up on your windshield.

Just like with tires, colder weather often means our cars need heavier windshield blades. And, it is not unusual to replace the wiper mechanism itself every few years. There are many wiper options available, for those who regularly drive in heavy snow and ice, to folks who pretty much confine their driving to dryer warmer areas. You can always try out different blades if you’re not sure which will best suit your winter vehicle needs. They are not terribly expensive, and they are pretty easy to swap out without the help of an auto technician.

A quick tip: point your windshield wipers up while you’re parked when snow is coming. this will prevent them from “freezing” and sticking to the windshield.

Another quick tip: Wipe the edge of your washer blades off with a paper towel every time you gas up. this will remove grit and grime, as well as any moisture build up on the blades.

To help avoid washer fluid from freezing when it hits a cold windshield, resulting in a mass of frozen slush, make sure your windshield is warmed up with the defroster before using any washer fluids. If it is so cold that your washer fluid is freezing in its reservoir, or in the lines, and not making it to our windshield, you can put methyl alcohol instead of washer fluid in the reservoir.

It is a good time to have your auto technician take a look at the check valve in the washer/nozzle line. The best time to find out if the valve is going bad is not when you need it, but before it fails.

Check Your Battery

Your Fort Collins automotive service can test and check your car’s battery, and do any maintenance on it that will get it through the colder season. If it needs to be replaced, this is the time to find out.

Whatever your winter driving car concerns and maintenance issues, come by Fort Collins Foreign Car Service, and we will take care of any issues and get your vehicle primed for driving in cold weather.