Preparing For Winter – Part Two: Fuel and Electrical
Welcome to part 2 of the mini-series on Preparing for Winter Driving. You can catch up on part 1, which covered the importance of Winter Tyres, by clicking on the link.
Part 2 will cover fuel and electrical considerations to prepare your vehicle for the inclement winter. Depending on how cold your local winter temperatures get, you may want to pick up a few items. Let’s start with two items that will be crucial in getting your vehicle started on those frigid mornings.
The Car's Battery
The very first item you must ensure is running at full capacity is your car’s battery. Cold weather is usually to blame for sucking the life out of a weak battery. You can get your car’s electrical system checked at a local mechanical garage or dealership. The test should cover the alternator, which is responsible for charging the battery while the car is in use, as well as the battery’s ability to retain the charge. If it is recommended that you replace the battery, consult the owner’s manual. Alternatively, you can simply replace the battery with one with identical specifications or ideally, you might select one with a higher CCA rating. CCA or Cold Cranking Amps are the single most important battery characteristic with relation to cold weather starts. The higher the number, the more power available to start your engine.
Of course, even the best battery can do nothing more than crank and provide spark, but if there is no fuel to ignite, you may end up burning your starter motor. This brings me to the next item, the fuel system.
The Fuel System
One suggestion to ensure your car starts promptly is to occasionally use an approved fuel injector cleaner (in addition to regular maintenance). These products are designed to help with the delivery of fuel to the combustion chamber. One important tip to keep in mind during cold winters is to ensure you never run your fuel tank to low levels. Try to keep your tank above ¼ from empty. This will help avoid condensation and ensure that the fuel line is not obstructed by sediment sitting in the bottom of the reservoir. Gas line anti-freeze is also not a bad idea to ensure proper flow of fuel. Always consult the automobile’s manufacturer website or manual for directions and always use the products as directed. Look specifically for product warnings and approvals before use.
Further considerations would be to look into the use of block heaters in extreme situations. Block heaters provide engine protection by keeping engine components and lubricants from freezing, extending the life of the engine. When not faced with deep freeze conditions, you can still help protect your engine by allowing it to reach operating temperatures before commencing your journey. Once you’ve started your car, don’t rev the engine excessively. Allow the car to regulate its own warm up cycle. You may notice that the tachometer indicates higher than normal revving when the mercury dips for a longer period of time. Normally, 750-800 RPM is where the car should idle before setting off. This ensures the cylinders are getting lubricated avoiding possible damage and wear caused by metal on metal operation. There are many schools of thought on this topic; however, many experts recommend motorists allow for the temperature gauge needle to climb to within operating temperatures before hitting the road.