The outdoor thermometer reads -10C, and it’s still dark as you struggle to open the frozen car door. You grab the scraper and start attacking the buildup of snow and ice on your windshield. With a sigh of relief, you get in the car, only to hear a quiet “click” when you turn the key in the ignition. It’s going to be a long day!
Here is a handy driver’s guide for solving common winter car problems like this.
Sometimes, getting where you need to go in winter just takes some advanced planning, a few household products and a little ingenuity!
1. Dead Battery
Most car batteries last 4-5 years. Have your local mechanic perform a load test on your battery before the temperature drops. While driving, you can reduce drain on your battery by lowering the heater fan speed and turning off the window defrosters when not needed. Put jumper cables in your vehicle – and ensure you know how to use them safely. And it never hurts to have a roadside assistance membership.
2. Icy Windshield
To prevent frost from forming on your windshield, try this. Blanket the windshield with cardboard, old bath mats or even a plastic tablecloth. In the morning, you just pull it off and shake off the snow.
3. Frozen Windows and Door Locks
Don’t use hot water; it will just make the freezing worse. Try these tricks instead.
- Unlock another door first
- Wearing gloves, heat your car key using a lighter and gently press it into the lock
- Use a hairdryer or a drinking straw to blow hot air directly on the lock for a couple of minutes
- Silicone spray, WD40 or cooking spray can be used proactively on windows and locks to prevent freezing
- Keep a can of lock de-icer handy
4. Frosty Inside Windows
Prevent frost inside your windows by removing any wet floor mats and allowing them to dry inside overnight. Consider leaving the silicon packets that come in shoe boxes in the car to absorb moisture. You can also purchase anti-fog spray at your local hardware store.
5. Windshield Wiper Problems
Slide a pair of old socks over your windshield wipers in the evening to keep them from icing over. You can also unfreeze wipers by soaking a soft cloth in full-strength rubbing alcohol, then wiping each blade. Or, simply lift them up overnight.
6. Cold Engine
Let your engine idle for 30 seconds before heading out. Anything more wastes fuel, increases engine wear and reduces the life of engine oil. Consider a block heater – an electric engine heater that you plug in at night to keep your coolant and oil warm. This will reduce fuel consumption and allow the cabin to heat up faster.
Before you Go
To avoid common winter car problems, stock up your car with a snow brush, lightweight shovel, booster cables, gloves, windshield wiper fluid and a flashlight. Keep an emergency kit in your car, including water bottles and non-perishable food items. Keep your gas tank at least half full. It can help reduce moisture and freezing in the fuel system; plus, it allows you to run your car for warmth if you get stuck.
The information in this article has been adapted from the following web sites. For more on solving winter car problems, visit:
- How to Boost Your Battery
- 5 Tips to Keep Your Car Running this Winter
- CAA Winter Car Care
- Government of Quebec: Safe Winter Driving
- Winter Driving Tips: Government of Canada
OSPE has a partnership with The Personal Insurance Company with regards to home and auto insurance for our engineers, engineering graduates and engineering students.
To find out more, call 1-888-476-8737. Or visit thepersonal.com/ospe.
The Personal refers to The Personal General Insurance Inc. in Quebec and The Personal Insurance Company in all other provinces and territories of Canada.
The information and advice in this article is provided for informational purposes only. The Personal shall not be liable for any damages arising from any reliance upon such information or advice. The Personal recommends using caution and consulting an expert for comprehensive, expert advice.