Vehicles need extra care in winter

Tires, windshield wipers, batteries among main problem areas motorists may face
Wiper blades can take a beating in the winter weather. This is a standard blade, but a winter blade will yield better performance. Rich Cooley/Daily

Wiper blades can take a beating in the winter weather. This is a standard blade, but a winter blade will yield better performance. Rich Cooley/Daily

During the winter, the main problems motorists face are torn windshield wipers, blown tires and difficulty turning the engine over on cold mornings.

In order to avoid that, J.J. Gruber, the store manager at Firestone Complete Auto Care in Winchester, recommends that motorists check their wiper blades, brakes, batteries, anti-freeze and tire pressure.

Even a new battery can still have trouble starting a vehicle in cold weather, Gruber said.

“A brand-new battery loses about 40 percent of its use on a really cold morning, so you definitely want to get your battery checked at the beginning of the winter,” Gruber said.

Gruber said tire pressure decreases in cold weather.

“For every 10-degree drop in temperature, you lose about one pound of air pressure,” Gruber said. “I recommend folks check their tire pressure at least once a week.”

Gruber said motorists should switch their all-season tires for winter tires in order to gain better traction in snow and ice.

“Winter tires have rubber that’s designed to stay pliable in these cold temperatures to give you traction,” Gruber said. “All-season tires don’t remain pliable in cold temperatures.”

Gruber added, “I run winter tires on my Impala and I love it. It makes a huge difference on a slick road with a little bit of ice and winter on it because the tires evacuate the water off them to give more traction.”

During extreme weather conditions, chains on the tires may be necessary to navigate the roads, but Gruber said motorists should beware of what kind of tires they have before putting them on.

“A soft snow tire is not designed to have chains on them, but some snow tires are designed to have studs put in them or chains on them,” Gruber said. “Sometimes in a state of emergency, the state will require chains, so in that case, do what the state says.”

Gruber said motorists should also change their wiper blades to thicker seasonal ones to avoid tearing them when the windshield frosts over, as well as running de-icing washer fluid.

“I usually run some kind of ice melt windshield washer fluid during the winter months and I’ve found it helps during snowy conditions and morning frost,” Gruber said.

Motorists with automatic transmissions should let the car warm up for a few minutes on a cold morning, Gruber said.

“In the winter time, it does help a lot to start the car up and let it run for a few minutes so the transmission fluid will get warm and run through the transmission some so it will flow better,” Gruber said.

He said motorists with manual transmissions should beware that the clutch may feel a little loose in the morning.

“You have brake fluid running through your clutch’s master cylinder, so at some point the fluid isn’t going to flow as it should, so once your vehicle warms up a little bit, it’ll start feeling like it should,” Gruber said.

Motorist should also check their brake pads and rotors, Gruber said.

“You don’t know what the weather is going to have, so if you’re in snow or ice, the last thing you want is to have your brakes give out on you in those conditions,” Gruber said. “You need to make sure you can stop.”

Other tips from Gruber include:

  • Check the anti-freeze levels.
  • Pack a safety kit in case of an accident, including road flares, blankets, jumper cables, a lug wrench and a tire jack.
  • Diesel motorists should add an additive to their fuel to prevent their fuel lines from freezing and plug in their block warmers over night for an easier start.

Contact staff writer Henry Culvyhouse at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or

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