LSU AgCenter Engineer Tells How to Winterize Car

Destiny Martin  |  8/21/2006 8:35:06 PM

News You Can Use For December 2003

With the onset of winter comes cooler weather and special environmental conditions that can challenge the performance of even the newest cars, according to LSU AgCenter engineer Dr. Dan Martin. With some forethought and advance maintenance, many of these obstacles can be overcome and prevented.

"One of the most common problems encountered in cold weather is a battery that refuses to crank your engine," Martin says, advising, "Checking your battery power and charging system prior to the onset of cold weather can prevent this."

Martin says the easiest way to check your battery is to take it to a local discount auto parts store and have it tested. He says most will do this free of charge. For the do-it-yourselfers, the engineer says a compact tester that puts the battery under a 10 amp load for 10 seconds will give an indication of the battery's and charging system's condition.

For low-maintenance batteries, Martin says to check the fluid level in each cell monthly and top off with distilled water if available. Check the hold-down hardware that keeps the battery from vibrating. Excessive vibration can significantly shorten a battery's life.

Martin advises cleaning battery terminals with a terminal brush or wire brush and neutralizing sulfuric acid on terminals by removing the battery leads and washing the terminals with a solution of baking soda and water. Consider purchasing a set of booster cables for those times when you accidentally leave the lights on. Also consider buying a battery charger to occasionally recharge cars that are driven infrequently.

The LSU AgCenter engineer says it also is important to check and replace any cracked, frayed or excessively worn belts or hoses. Car owners can do this themselves and purchase any necessary belts or hoses from the local auto parts or discount store for self-installation. There should be no more than 2 inches of play in any of the belts. Some belts may require professional installation.

Also affected by cold weather is the coolant in the radiator. In winter, this fluid may freeze if not treated with the proper amount of antifreeze. Most often, coolant and antifreeze are combined into one solution and diluted with water upon use. An acceptable mix of coolant/antifreeze and water is 50:50.

Martin says the actual protection that your particular mix will provide can be tested with a simple and relatively inexpensive gauge available at most auto parts and discount stores. If the gauge indicates an inadequate protection level and the fluid is clear, additional coolant/antifreeze can be added.

If the fluid has particles of rust, however, the cooling system needs to be flushed and new fluid added.

"Remember, never open a radiator cap until the system has cooled to touch, and properly dispose of used coolant/antifreeze for the protection of pets and small children," Martin advises.

Windshield washer fluid also can freeze and should be conditioned with antifreeze formulated for this purpose. Windshield wiper blades are exposed to harsh environments and increased usage in Louisiana and should be checked and changed frequently, preferably with every oil change.

For additional information about preventive maintenance, contact an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office or log on to the LSU AgCenter Web site at


On the Internet: LSU AgCenter:

Source: Dan Martin (225) 578-2229, or

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