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Don't be left out in the cold

Things you can do to help get your Car ready for winter

get ready for winter and check your car battery for winter

Make sure your Battery is both dispersing and holding charge

Do check your Battery charge and clean your Battery terminals to minimise the risk of starting failure.
According to some Roadside Assistant sources Battery fails increase by 50% during winter and who want's to be stuck out in the cold trying to get it to work while picking up the kids or just trying to get home.

Your Battery is needed to deliver the initial charge to kick in your Starter motor, and your Alternator is designed to recharge your Battery whilst the engine is running. If your vehicle is getting harder to start or your Battery is showing signs of failure, age or wear, best get it checked by a professional and ask them to check that your Alternator is functioning correctly as well.

Diagnosing a bad Battery is a pretty straight forward process with the correct tools. More often than not, most people find out their Battery has failed the hard way by being left stranded in their vehicle in the drive way, in a car park or on the street.

The plus side is that most Roadside Assistance services can check your Battery and Alternator) while they're there getting you going again. Just have your wallet ready as statistically you have a 50/50 chance of buying a new Battery.

Note: If in doubt always check with a professional.

get ready for winter and keep your car fuel tank topped up or full over winter

Keep your Fuel tank 1/2 full or more to reduce risk of contamination

Do try to keep your Fuel tank at least 1/2 full or more to reduce the opportunity for condensation to build up.
Just as water droplets form on the outside of a cold glass as condensation, if there is enough air (empty space) present in your fuel tank, water condensation can also form on the inner walls and drip down into the fuel.

If we remember our science lessons correctly, condensation is water changing from its gaseous state (water vapour) into liquid form which is of course, water. As water is heavier than Petrol it sinks to the bottom of your fuel tank and can lead to corrosion of the fuel system in metal tanks.

When water is present and you run your tank low, the water will be dragged into the fuel system causing hard starting, general performance issues and potentially ruining Injectors and Fuel pumps. Another issue with having too much water laying in your tank is microbial growth.

There is a range of fuel additives on the market to help disperse accumulated water (and treat microbial growth), however if your vehicle is showing signs of heavy water contamination best to consult a professional for diagnosis.

Note: If in doubt always check with a professional.

get ready for winter and check your tyre pressure and tread depth for winter

Ensure your Tyre pressure isn't too high and you have required tread depth

Do check your Tyre pressure and tread depth to ensure you get maximum contact with the road for all weather conditions.
Keeping your Tyres inflated correctly and ensuring you have the required and legal tread depth will ensure you have the maximum area of contact with the road surface to provide traction (grip) and optimal braking distance. Correctly maintained Tyres also contribute to your overall fuel economy.

In colder months the pressure in your Tyres will drop. It's a matter of physics, as air expands when warm and contracts when cold. This is why you should always check your tyre pressure while your Tyres are fairly cold (not driven far). A duck to the garage is OK, but never check them during a trip or at the end while they are hot.

Keeping your Tyres inflated to the correct pressure is an important factor in maximising your overall safety, comfort, handling, fuel economy and Tyre life.

Note: Your vehicle manual may have recommendations to increase the tyre pressure (pre driven rating) in winter pending your location as extreme cold will limit the amount of expansion even when driving. This would not be considered over inflation.

get ready for winter and check your windscreen wiper blades

Inspect your Wiper blades for wear, hardening or damage

Do check your Wiper blades and Windscreen washer levels to help ensure you can maintain clear vision in all driving conditions.
Your windscreen is the only thing between your eyes and the outside environment so it makes sense to keep it as clean as possible.

That's where your wipers come in. Your Wiper rubbers should appear smooth and free of gouges, splits and cracks. If your Wipers make an annoying chattering sound as they drag across your windscreen or leave areas of glass that appear smeared or even untouched from lack of contact, then their time is up.

Keeping your Windscreen clean and streak free is actually a pretty big ask and wipers generally can't do it alone. Ensure your windscreen washer tank is kept topped up including the addition of a quality windscreen cleaning solution rather than just plain water.

In very cold locations consider using an anti-fog treatment on the interior windscreen surface.

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Note: If in doubt always check with a professional.

get ready for winter and check your spark plugs

Inspect your Spark plugs for signs of wear or failure

Do check your Spark plugs and change if necessary to increase your vehicles overall reliability and performance.
If it's been a while, you've missed a service or you simply can't remember when your Spark Plugs were last changed, then its time to consider checking and changing them before winter sets in.

Spark plugs play a major roll in overall engine performance from getting you going to keeping you going. Without reliable spark you vehicle will be hard to start as it won't generate enough spark to ignite the fuel/oxygen mix in the combustion chamber.

If your vehicle starts then stalls or if your engine develops a misfire then chances are you've got worn out Spark plugs. If your vehicle fails to start at all then first always look at your Battery. Other symptoms of potentially faulty Spark plugs include an illuminated or flashing 'Check Engine' light, often accompanied with engine misfire.

A drop in fuel economy is very common and if the plugs are worn this may creep up over time and could go unnoticed, though it's pretty much a guarantee that you'll be burning through more fuel. Rough engine idle, rattling, pinging or knocking noises are all signs that your Spark plugs may be letting you down.

A drop in acceleration performance means it's also time to get under the bonnet to check you plugs.

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Note: It's best  to change all of your Spark plugs at the same time, aside from the law of if one is showing signs of wear then the others will soon follow, it also helps you keep track between changes. 

get ready for winter and check your diesel glow plugs

Ensure your Glow plugs reach the required ignition heat

Do check your Diesel Glow plugs and change if necessary to increase your engines cold starting reliability.
Glow Plugs need to generate the optimal amount of heat (glow) required to efficiently ignite the combustion chamber.

Slow or laboured starting, or not starting at all are pretty sure signs it's time to replace one or more of your Glow plugs. Engine miss, rough idle, hesitation and lots of white smoke until the engine warms up are all common signs of failing Glow plugs.

Excessive white smoke when cold is a symptom of the combustion chamber not having enough heat and the culprit is generally a bad Glow plug.

Other causes for white Diesel smoke can be a clogged fuel filter, injector pump timing, low compression and contaminated Diesel fuel.

If your vehicle is equipped with a 'Glow plug Check light' and it's illuminated or flashes, then say no more. Failing Glow plugs can also trigger your 'Check Engine light' though this is generally accompanied with hard starting or rough running symptoms.

In a four cylinder Diesel a single bad Glow plug will make the engine harder to start and miss. Two worn plugs will make it very hard to start and when it does it will run rough. Three failing plugs will make it almost impossible to start let alone run.

Although Glow Plugs can last for around 150,000 to 180,000 kms, it's really when winter hits that they are truly put to the cold start and run test.

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Note: If in doubt always check with a professional.

get ready for winter and check your ignition spark leads

Inspect Ignition leads for obvious signs of age, wear or cracking

Do check your Ignition leads and change if necessary to help ensure your Spark plugs are receiving optimal and consistent current.
Ignition leads (aka Spark plug leads or wires) perform the critical task of carrying electrical power from the ignition system to each individual Spark plug.

As leads age they can crack, split and generally lose their insulation quality delivering erratic levels of power to the plugs. A failing lead can produce some similar symptoms to a failing Spark plug so it's important to diagnose any problems first.

The most commonly experienced symptoms of a bad Ignition lead include engine miss, hesitation or surging and a significant loss of power. Of course if your leads show any clear signs of age damage then it's time for replacement regardless. Even if they are causing only minor symptoms now, more significant ones are lying just around the corner.

Your engine needs deliver both balanced and responsive power, when it's not performing as it should it's putting you and others at risk.

The good news is that like the Spark plug, Ignition leads are also very affordable considering how crucial they really are.

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Note: If any of your leads are showing signs of degradation (age or wear) then it's best to change them all. As they share the same environment what is happening to one will likely be happening to all. It will also help with consistency of power flow since you will not be mixing brands or manufacturers.

get ready for winter and check your starter motor

Check that your Starter motor isn't showing signs of struggle or noise

Do check your Starter motor to help reduce the risk of being caught unexpectedly by a non-start break down.
A Starter motor uses electricity from the Battery to jolt your engine to life, a lot like a set of paramedic defibrillators do for your heart!

Cold weather is often a true test of your vehicles ignition system, and if it's been behaving a little badly during the warmer months you can pretty much bet it will let you down at the most inconvenient time possible in the cold.

If all you hear is a clicking sound when you first turn the key rather than the comforting sound of your engine coming to life, then it's time to look at your Battery or Starter motor. If you experience the dreaded 'click click click' and all your lights and overall electrics such as indicators, wipers, power windows etc are all working, then there's a good chance you're up for a new Starter motor.

If on the other hand your lights are dim or the vehicles electrics are sluggish or won't work at all then you may have an issue with your Battery.

If you don't have the knowledge or tools to test your Starter motor or Battery, then it's best to get all functions checked by a professional to avoid a costly misdiagnosis.

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Note: If in doubt always check with a professional.

get ready for winter and check your alternator

Check that your Alternator is sending charge to the Battery

Do check your Alternator to ensure your Battery is being sufficiently charged while you're vehicle is driving.
The Alternators job is to recharge your Battery while the engine is running, pretty straight forward as long as it's working as expected.

Your Batteries job is primarily to turn over the Starter motor when you turn the key and continue to deliver current throughout the vehicle.

But, if you've had a few issues with starting your engine or running the electrics (lights, windows, indicators, etc.) during the pre-winter months then there's a fairly high chance that the cold won't be kind to you or your vehicle. As the Alternator and the Battery are designed to work together, when one side or both starts letting the team down you need to find out which one it is ASAP. If you don't then your Roadside Assistance provider may have to move in as you'll be needing them quite a bit until your problem is fixed. If your lights and electrics were fully functional before setting off on your drive but struggle (or fail) after it, then chances are your Battery is OK but not a guarantee.

If however your electrics struggle (or fail) during or after driving then there may be an issue with the Alternator delivering the required amount of recharge to the Battery. If you don't have the knowledge or tools to test your Alternator and Battery then best get it checked by a professional.

Always get the Battery tested first as aside from being easier and generally cheaper to replace, it's also often the culprit.

Shop for Alternators

Note: If in doubt always check with a professional.

get ready for winter and check your coolant temperature sensor

Ensure your coolant Temperature sensor is operating correctly

Do check that your Coolant Temperature Sensor is operating correctly to protect your fuel economy and overall performance.
For a part that's quite inexpensive, a coolant Temperature Sensor (sometimes referred to as a gauge or switch) plays a critical role in helping the engines computer management system (EMS or ECM) accurately calculate the engines timing and fuel delivery.

Engines require more fuel when they're cold and less when they've warmed up. The key is ensuring the computer receives accurate information via the sensor to take the appropriate action. A faulty Temperature sensor can present itself in a few ways.

Poor fuel economy is a major factor as the computer may adjust using false readings.

Black smoke from the exhaust can be a symptom that the computer is enriching the fuel mixture to the point where it can't all be burnt in the combustion chamber. Instead it will pass through and burn up in the exhaust creating black smoke.

Your engine may also overheat, misfire or ping as the computer may falsely compensate for a lean (opposed to rich) signal delivery.

The Check Engine light may come on for certain vehicles. Although this can be triggered by various issues for some makes and models a faulty Temperature sensor can be the cause.

Whenever you see an illuminated Check Engine light it's best to get your vehicle inspected by a professional.

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Note: If in doubt always check with a professional.

get ready for winter and check your heater control valve tap

Make sure your Heater valve tap opens and closes freely

Do check your Heater control valve tap to ensure it isn't broken, stuck or blocked and flows free or you may be left cold.
Let's face it, when it's cold we want to be warmer and that's where the Heater valve tap comes in.

There are a few common signs of a faulty Heater valve and if yours does need replacing they are an affordable and fairly easy part to install.

If your Heater simply doesn't work you may not be getting any flow of coolant to the heater core to produce warm air for the cabin. A faulty Heater tap may create erratic Heater behaviour due to not being able to control the coolant flow correctly to regulate the heat.

A common symptom is failing to heat under engine load though heating while at idle. If your Heater finds it hard to maintain a consistent warmth or you observe your temperature gauge rising and falling fairly rapidly then it's likely you have a faulty valve tap.

Any obvious signs of coolant leakage around/near the tap means it's certainly replacement time.

Shop for Heater valve taps

Note: If in doubt always check with a professional.

get ready for winter and check your car cabin filter

Inspect your Cabin filter for signs of clogging, mould or contamination

Do check your Cabin filter to ensure it's clean and debris free to help avoid allergens entering and unpleasant odours forming.
Cabin filters are often 'out of sight and out of mind' and quite a lot of drivers don't even know they have one! They are often located at the back of the glove box and can be fairly easily accessed from within the glove box itself. If in doubt about the location of your Cabin filter consult your manual.

Cabin filters perform the very valuable function of keeping the Air in the cabin clean and are designed to trap irritants such as dust, pollen, smog, mould spores as well as general small debris like bits of leaves.

Cabin filters should be replaced based on your manufacturers recommend schedules, however driving in excessively dry and dusty or high humidity and damp environments means they may need to be changed more often.

During winter the dampness in the air can cause a dirty Cabin filter to develop an unpleasant smell when using your fan blower or air conditioning.

If you haven't had yours changed in a while (our you didn't even know you had one!) then it's time to have a look, your nose and your lungs will thank you for it.

Shop for Cabin filters

Note: If in doubt always check with a professional.

Things you shouldn't do to your Car or 4X4 in winter
don't pour hot water on your windscreen in winter or it will crack

Never poor Hot water onto a cold windscreen or you risk cracking the glass

Don't pour hot water on your Windscreen to remove frost or ice as it's a pretty surefire way to cause a crack now, or a fracture that will crack later.
If your vehicle isn't parked undercover in winter and getting ready to head off to work means you need to defrost your windscreen, then never use hot water or you risk a high chance of cracking or fracturing the glass.

Use your Windscreen washers in combination with your vehicles Heater set to windscreen defrost. If you need to defrost all of the exterior windows then it's best to simply use a garden hose.

If you live in extreme cold regions where garden hoses are prone to freezing up you may have to bucket cold water from the inside of your home.

Whichever method you use, allow the time to ensure you have safe vision before commencing your drive. 

Note: There is a bunch google-wisdom for preventing your windscreen from icing up including rubbing on a cut onion while the glass is free from ice and frost. If you find a method that works for you, share it in the comments section below.

don't turn on your windscreen wipers if they are frozen with ice or risk tearing blades or burning out wiper motors

Don't turn on your Wipers if they are frozen in ice or risk motor burnout

Don't turn on your Windscreen wipers if they are iced up or frozen stuck as you'll likely tear the rubber blades or burn out the Wiper motor.
If your Wipers are set in ice then don't attempt to free them by simply turning them on or you'll risk tearing the rubbers making them useless. You'll also put your Wiper motor(s) at risk of burn out which can be very costly.

Similarly to removing frost from your windscreen, use cold water from a tap or garden hose to help break it down, then carefully remove the larger chunks of ice by hand or with a scraping tool avoiding the windscreen glass.

In extreme temperatures garden hoses may freeze up in which case you may need to use buckets of water from inside of your home.

Whichever method you use, ensure your wipers are fully operational before commencing your drive.

Note: There is a bunch of google-wisdom for how to prevent your wipers from freezing down (while parked for long periods) during exposure to ice or frost. Standing them up and covering each with an old sock is one of them. If you have a preferred method, share it in the comments section below.

don't jump start your car battery unless you know what you are doing or risk costly damage to electrics

Never attempt to Jump start your vehicle without consulting your manual or a professional first

Don't jump start your vehicle yourself without checking your owners manual first or risk causing costly damage to your engine electrics.
Most vehicles can be safely jump started following the standard procedure, however it is imperative you check your owners manual first before attempting to jump start your own or someone else's vehicle.

Some car manufacturers include dedicated jump starting terminals while others warn against any form of jump starting. Sudden surges of electricity can damage critical and costly electrical components such as engine management systems or onboard computers.

If you've jumped started your vehicle before and carry a set of leads then you've armed yourself with a quick and easy way to get yourself going again with the help of another friendly driver.

If you're inexperienced then it's best call roadside assistant or consult a professional. Both can also check your Battery and Alternator to ensure they're functioning correctly otherwise your likely to land in the same situation pretty quickly.

Note: Serious and costly damage can be caused by power surges by not following your manuals guidelines. Most at risk are electrical components such as engine management systems (EMS and ECM). If in doubt contact a professional.

don't check your tyre pressure when you tyres are hot from driving, tyre pressure are cold recommendations

Don't check your Tyre pressure when you tyres are hot from driving, the pressure ratings are based on cold tyres

Don't check your Tyres when they're too hot from driving, the ratings on the side of your tyres relate to required pressure before driving.
Over inflating your Tyres is a pretty easy thing to avoid if you simply pay attention to the pressure rating on the outside of your tyres, and always check or top them up when the tyres are considered 'cold' having not driven very far.

If you're running the same size and style of tyre that came new with your car you can also follow the pressure recommendations in your manual or the information sticker within the door frame.

Any excessive over inflation when the tyres are cold will get worse as the tyres heat up causing the internal air to expand and potentially bulging the wall of the tyre and creating a peak in the centre.

Most of us won't notice the change aside from experiencing a stiffer and bumpier ride as the over inflated tyres will not absorb as much road vibration.

Over inflating your tyres will distort their shape and as they heat up the affect will get worse reducing the amount of surface contact or footprint with the road.

Distorted tyres will reduce your comfort, fuel economy, tyre life and overall safety.

Note: Your vehicle manual may have recommendations to increase the tyre pressure (pre driven rating) in winter pending your location as extreme cold will limit the amount of expansion even when driving. This would not be considered over inflation.

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