Winter is a season that acts especially rude towards all sorts of vehicles. Yeah, cold weather, rough driving conditions, and frequent breakdowns all seem poised to cause accidents and make the drivers’ lives needlessly hard. All these things are even more notable if you find yourself behind the wheel of a van, a vehicle that was never considered particularly nimble.
Well, the winter is inevitable and there are very few things you can do to change its course. What you can do is at least prepare your vehicle for severe winter conditions. Let us take a look at a couple of tips that should help you along the way.
Check the battery
Low temperature and vehicle batteries never made a particularly good match. That wouldn’t be too big of a problem if only the winter season didn’t put extra pressure on this vital unit. Increased use of lights, heaters and windshield wipers are only some of the examples that cross the mind. So, give your battery a check and recharge it if you notice the low output. If the battery is nearing the end of its five-year life cycle, it would be best to replace it altogether. Also, do your best to keep the unit clean. Corroded terminals can impair your reduced power output even further.
Maintain the fluids
Every vehicle uses several important fluids to run smoothly and keep the engine cool. As you can guess, extreme temperatures can mess quite a bit with them if they are not properly maintained. These three mentions should be at the center of your attention:
- Anti-freeze – If you haven’t already done this at the start of the season, flush the coolant system and pour in fresh mixture (e.g. 4 gallons of coolant require 2 gallons of distilled water and 2 gallons of antifreeze).
- Engine oil – Usually, smaller vans use the 30-weight single viscosity oil. As soon as you reach freezing temperatures, you should move to lower viscosity, a 10-weight alternative.
- Transmission fluid – Much like in the previous case, higher weight fluids don’t lubricate all that well on low temperatures. That is why you should use multi-viscosity options under 30 weights.
Protect your van from corrosion
Low temperatures, freezing, and road salt can take quite a heavy toll on the van’s structural integrity and overall performance. That is why you should do your best to safeguard the vehicle from these outside factors. For a start, get yourself a quality car cover to protect the van from elements when it’s standing idle. Also, clean the undercarriage when you are finished driving – the road salt can damage the vehicle’s important systems located down there. Finally, when you are waxing the vehicle, wait for the dry periods and apply a full coat for the best possible protection.
Take care of the tires
Tires provide your van with necessary traction and keep it on the ground even when it’s slippery which, arguably, makes them one of the most important parts of your vehicle. If you want them to continue performing these important duties, you should switch to a winter set and give them frequent check-ups. Three things you should pay attention to the most are:
- Tire treads – Replace the tires as soon as you see the treads are 50% worn (7/32”).
- Tire pressure – Higher tire pressure requires better traction. So, as soon as temperatures start dropping, don’t hesitate to increase the pressure 3-5 psi higher than the recommended inflation.
- Tire wear – The tires that are cracked or show any other signs of attrition should be immediately replaced.
Keep the tank full
Driving with low fuel can cause several problems. First, an empty tank encourages condensation. When the vehicle cools off, this vapor buildup can turn into ice, enter the van’s fuel system and damage the engine. Second, lower fuel means a lighter vehicle which, in turn, translates to poor traction. Both of these problems are very easy to address. Pay attention to the vehicle’s fuel meter and always keep the tank half-full. If that’s not possible, do your best to never go below one quarter.
We hope these few tips will help you to keep your four-wheeler in good shape until the snow starts melting. Vans have never been considered the nimblest vehicles out there. All these problems are even more pronounced during the winter season. So, keep in mind all the things we’ve covered above and do your best to offset as much of the seasonal problems as you can.