Five ways to help your car in the bitter cold

It was 14 degrees F at New Concept Auto Service when I unlocked the doors this morning. Although some might not consider that bitter cold, here in Overland Park, Kansas, I think it qualifies! Here are some tips to help ensure your car will start for your frigid morning commute:

  1. Fill your tank. Stick with regular grade fuel and make sure your engine has a good tune-up. Premium fuel is a good product and I use it in some of my personal cars. However, it has no specific benefit for cold starting. Premium fuel has a higher octane rating. Higher octane fuel creates less pre-ignition or pinging in the engine especially during hot weather. Unless your car specifically calls for premium fuel, just use regular in the cold weather. Also, ethanol works well in cold weather. Gas stations, especially in metropolitan areas, contain up to 10 percent ethanol as mandated by the EPA. Check the pump and if you have a choice, use the 10 percent ethanol in the cold weather. (E85 gas pumps are for specific vehicles designed to use the 15 percent ethanol fuel. Don’t use it in your non-E85 vehicle or you will turn on you check engine light.)
  2. Warm up your engine. On cold mornings in Overland Park, I start my engine and sit for at least a few minutes before moving. I also set the park brake and put my transmission into neutral. This causes the transmission fluid to circulate and warm up as well. A great late Christmas gift would be a remote start. Just don’t forget to set the controls on defrost the night before. (If you don’t drive daily and the temperature is below 10 degrees F, start your car and let it run at idle for 15 minutes every three days to charge the battery.)
  3. Change your oil. If you are overdue for an oil change, the old oil begins to sludge up, making it harder to crank over with the starter. Consider a full synthetic oil change as synthetic oil is nice and thin when cold, making it easier for the engine to crank over.
  4. Air up your tires. Everything shrinks when it turns bitter cold, including the air pressure in your tires. Corrosion naturally builds up where your tire bead meets the rim on aluminum wheels. Unfortunately this causes the bead to leak even more as the tire collapses.
  5. Fill your washer fluid reservoir. There is a difference in washer fluid. Ours is blue and will not freeze, even well below zero. Plus it’s free with an oil change. Here is a tip: To make your wipers last longer, use your washers once a week to remove the debris.

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Cold Weather