3 bits of your car that you’ve probably neglected over the winter
How to stop your car getting the shivers, and also some German lessons
Between lockdown and the harsh winter months, there’s a very good chance you haven’t done much driving recently. And even without lockdown, many people park their hobby cars up over winter because, well, driving in snow and ice isn’t as much fun, unless you’ve got a rally-spec Impreza. If you do, call us. We’d like a go.
But otherwise, there are a few things that you should have done to make sure your pride and joy was cost and well-maintained during its hibernation. Oh what’s that? You didn’t do anything? Well, never mind. Here’s what you should have done, and here’s how you can try and undo any damage caused by not having done it. But remember them for when things get cold again.
If you laid your car up over the colder months, then you really should at least have taken some steps to look after your battery. Why? Because firstly, batteries tend to drain over time, and secondly because they don’t work as well in cold weather (just ask anyone with an electric car). Without wanting to get too technical, batteries work through a chemical reaction, and that reaction is lessened when the temperature drops.
In an ideal world, your car would have been hooked up to a trickle charger, which as the name suggests trickles charge into the battery while your car is parked and makes sure it’s kept topped up.
But of course, you didn’t do that. And now your car won’t start. Ugh.
"I don't know how these work." Photo: Daniel @ bestjumpstarterreview.com on Unsplash
Step one is to try and jump start your car. Get a friend or family member to bring their car as close to yours as possible, and hook up some jump leads. Keep in mind though that jump starting requires your battery to still have a bit of juice in it. If you try and start your car and nothing happens at all, your battery may be completely dead, in which case, you may need a new one. You can get one from almost any auto shop, or call a breakdown specialist to bring one out.
Next time, think about a trickle charger – they’re not expensive – or pop out to run your car’s engine for a bit every week or so.
Make sure you hold the tube weirdly, so you can read the label at ALL TIMES
You can also prepare your battery so that it’s in the best possible shape before the temperatures drop. Make sure it’s as charged as possible, and that all the connections are in tip-top shape. Putting suitable grease on the connection poles, such as Liqui Moly’s Battery Clamp Grease (Batterie-Poll-Fett in the original German), will help reduce the risk of corrosion and oxidation, which can knacker the connection.
While you’re at it, spray it with Electronic Spray (Electronikspray), which will dispel any moisture. You can also use that on the distributor, fuses and, well, any electronics really.
Having a functioning battery is no good if your engine isn’t getting any fuel, and the fuel system is also susceptible to the cold.
Diesels can have issues with the fuel literally freezing, as it contains paraffin wax that can crystallise and clog the fuel filter. If you are going to use the car at all during cold weather, consider adding an additive to stop that happening. Liqui Moly’s Diesel Flow Fit (Diesel Flieβ Fit) will winterproof diesel to up to -31°C, but make sure you do it before the icy weather arrives, as the additive needs to be in the tank before the fuel starts clogging.
Your fuel system. Probably. (Photo: Shin Roran on Unsplash)
If you’ve got an older or classic car, it’s worth making sure the carburettor doesn’t get icy. You can use MTX Carburettor Cleaner, which primarily does what it says on the tin – gets rid of deposits in the carb and prevents new ones from forming – but will also stop them from icing over. Also consider a fuel stabiliser, such as Liqui Moly’s imaginatively-named Fuel Stabilizer (Benzin-Stabilisator), which helps preserve the fuel itself if it’s not being used for a while.
If you didn’t do any of this and your car’s system is all frozen up, the simplest solution is to warm it up. If you’re able to wheel the car somewhere warmer, like a heated garage, then great. Failing that, try popping a portable heater under the car to warm up the fuel lines.
When it comes to engines, friction is the enemy of efficiency. Under normal use, engine oil keeps things nice and slippery, but if your car has been sat doing nothing, that oil isn’t being sent around the system. Once you start the car, you’ll want that oil to spread as quickly as possible, because otherwise you’ll have metal rubbing against metal, which is not good.
Oil additives in action (dramatisation)
The best way to prepare for this – not just in winter, but any time your car will be sat still for a while – is to do a full oil change just before it hibernates, and to flush the system to get any traces of old oil out. That way it’ll be at max efficiency come the spring. An additive like Liqui Moly’s Motor Clean, which you add to the old oil just before changing it, will help dissolve all the gunky nonsense lining your system, then take it with it when it drains, leaving your engine sparkly clean for the new, unpolluted oil.
Glug glug glug
For extra peace of mind, you can add an additive to the new oil to further minimise friction. Oil Additiv adds physical protection – a solid lubricant that coats surfaces – while Motor Protect is a more modern, chemical protection. Cera Tec is an even more high-tech additive, which combines both physical and chemical protection by using tiny ceramic particles. Mm, slippery.
Not doing any of this is unlikely to cause immediate problems come the spring, but it can mean that your engine wears faster. Remember, prevention is always better than cure.