Care Care

Fall 2001 CSANews Issue 40  |  Posted date : Apr 01, 2007.Back to list

The purchase of a car is one of the major purchases you make in your life. It may not be a living thing, but if you want to ensure it a long life, you need to provide it with tender loving care. This includes regular, preventive maintenance geared to the driving season.

As temperatures drop, there are critical vehicle functions that need to be inspected to make sure they are up to strength for the long, cold nights ahead.

One of these, says Paul Brin of the Certigard Centre in Vancouver, is the cooling system. "Part of our winter check-up," says Brin, "is to change the oil and test the cooling system." In winter, the coolant faces the challenge of keeping the engine from freezing. The ideal mix of antifreeze and water is 50/50, which will offer protection down to ­40C. "There are three things we look for," says Murray Hill of Brampton, Ont. Certigard. "PH level, freeze point and contaminants all contribute to the coolant's effectiveness, or lack thereof." To correct the balance, it may be necessary to add water or antifreeze. In some cases, where there are too many contaminants floating around, it is best to flush the whole system, advises Hill.

Taking your car in for a complete vehicle inspection is very important at this time of year. "I can't stress this enough," says Hill. "It is even more important than a pre-summer exam because it is so much harder to survive a winter breakdown in the middle of nowhere," he points out. "This is why we recommend a complete pre-winter inspection." The brakes and steering both have to be examined to make sure they don't pull to one side, cautions Vancouver's Brin. If a car does this on a slippery road, you could find yourself in a snow bank.

Along with the vehicle's lighting system is a review of the electrics. This includes an inspection of the belts and alternator but, more importantly, the battery. Hot weather is particularly hard on batteries, so a summer like we've just had may mean trouble when the first cold snap hits, says Hill. "When we do our inspection, we test the battery electronically and, where possible, test the individual cells." A weak cell could mean the difference to the car starting on an icy morning, since even a brand-new battery loses 40 per cent of its effectiveness at zero Celsius (compared to its summer performance). Most car batteries have a serviceable life of four or five years, so don't assume it is being examined and ask, to be sure.

Lastly, tires are the most critical component of a car and are thoroughly inspected for their condition, including sidewalls, air pressure and tread depth. If necessary, they get rotated to balance the wear across the surface. While more and more people are heeding expert advice and switching to winter tires, there is one caution that technicians across the country are making, "Does it make sense to take off a perfectly good set of all-season tires with plenty of tread, only to replace them with a worn set of snows?" If you have a set of winter tires, put one in the trunk of your car when you take it in for service and ask your Certigard technician if they will do the job for another winter.