Winterizing Your Vehicle

Fourth Generation Family Owned Auto Repair

Winterizing Your Vehicle

Is your car ready for the winter? In Minnesota the cold months can bring harsh weather and below freezing temperatures. Making sure your car is prepped is an important part of car ownership and can save you time and money down the road. No one wants to break down in the snow!

Here are three easy things that every car owner can do at home to prepare their car for winter:

  • Replacement of wiper blades
  • Filling windshield washer fluid (use a winter-safe fluid!)
  • Checking tire pressure

These three tasks are simple, yet can significantly help your car in a cold weather climate. Good wipers and full washer fluid (see below) can greatly increase a driver’s safety by allowing maintain a completely clear field of vision while driving.

The best option to completely prepare your car for winter is to schedule an appointment with Signal Garage. Every car is different, so we have no set “winterization” routine. Our trained techs will do a complete inspection of your vehicle and advise what needs to be done to make the car as safe and reliable as possible for the winter season.

Some things that we check with every pre-winter inspection include:

  • Antifreeze- we test the antifreeze to ensure it will protect your engine in the case of extreme cold weather. That’s important to consider; last December it was -17°! If your antifreeze is old, it will not protect your engine in cases of extreme chill. This can lead to leaks, part failures, and even engine damage.
  • Tires- we look at tire wear and pressure. Tires are one of the most important components to safe driving in the winter. Tire pressure tends to drop in cold weather. This can affect traction and tire wear as well as increase the risk of a blowout. Proper tread depth and properly inflated tires make the world of difference when it comes to snow traction. If you don’t have enough tread on your tires the chances of an avoidable accident happening are much higher. We also check tire pressure and look for possible leaks in low tires- cold winter air causes the rubber of your tires to contract and can make slow leaks much worse. It is better to fix any tire leaks or buy new tires before winter to avoid changing a tire in the cold and snow. Are you considering snow tires? Feel free to ask Avi, Ethan, or Shawn. We would be happy to discuss the advantages and disadvantages that come along with snow tires.
  • Washer Fluid- Frozen washer fluid is a problem we run into every winter and is easily avoided. Frozen washer fluid will stop your washer system from working, and could potentially block your sight of the road. It can also damage the washer pump, the reservoir, and the lines, which can be an expensive issue. Use up your existing washer fluid, then call us for an appointment. We will inspect your car for winter and fill the system with a winter-safe fluid that won’t freeze until -20°. If you need your fluid filled before your appointment simply stop by and we can top it off for you.
  • Steering and Suspension Components- these parts are not necessarily susceptible to failure from the cold, but in the case of slippery roads loose parts can be a major safety hazard. It’s important to check the wear of these parts before winter.
  • General Inspection- last but not least, a general inspection is key! We know the fear of breaking down in the cold and do everything we can to ensure that doesn’t happen. We wouldn’t our family breaking down in the snow; we don’t want our customers to either. Our techs are extra careful with pre-winter inspections and check your fluids, belts, hoses, steering and suspensions, and more.

Regular maintenance and inspections are the vital to avoiding breakdowns no matter the weather. Once you’ve had your pre-winter inspection, be sure to remember your oil and maintenance service and vehicle inspection every 3000-5000 miles (depending on the type of oil used in your vehicle).

We’ve laid out three easy tasks you can do to prepare your vehicle for the cold weather, but you can always bring your car into Signal Garage and let us take care of it for you. Remember, winter is coming!

Downsides of Skipping an Oil Change

Quite often, the simplest and most routine maintenance is what most slips our minds the easiest. Forgetting or skipping an oil change might not cause immediate and irreparable damage, but it can certainly shorten your engine’s lifespan and sometimes cause problems with only expensive solutions. You can save yourself a lot of money and trouble by getting your oil changed so that your engine always has fresh, clean oil to work with at Signal Garage – the premier destination for auto repair in St. Paul, MN!


But first: what’s the big deal with changing your oil, anyway?


What does oil do?


Almost everyone knows that motor oil is a lubricant, but that is not the only job it has. In addition to lubricating the moving parts of your engine, oil also has to cool and clean the engine. As oil ages, it becomes thinner and dirtier, filled with dirt and tiny metal shavings. As tiny as those shavings are, they cause a domino effect; they not only keep the oil from lubricating properly, they cause further engine wear, filling the oil with even more metal shavings. If this engine wear continues for too long, the damage can be costly. An oil change is a very cheap preventative to keep this from happening.


Eventual Damage


Without proper lubrication, the parts in your car’s engine will eventually start to get to hot. This means your engine will not run as efficiently and can cost you money in gas mileage. The real problems are not as obvious at first, though; the heat can make engine parts warp and eventually wear out. Eventually the entire engine will shut down if an oil change does not happen in a timely manner. Replacing an engine is, at minimum, several thousand dollars, sometimes more than the car itself is worth.


Oil Sludge


Oil sludge is another major problem that can occur, particularly in extreme weather. Every engine has hot spots that get hot enough to burn oil off, which creates sludge, but sometimes conditions occur that make it build up more quickly. For example, when it’s cold outside, if you are taking short trips where the engine does not heat up much, the normal condensation on the engine doesn’t evaporate, instead combining with the oil to create more sludge. This sludge can build up to create clogs, which can cause engine parts to fail very quickly. If you often deal with extreme weather or difficult driving conditions, you may need an oil change more often than most.




Your engine is a labyrinth of tubes and filters and ducts and seals; it is only natural that there will, occasionally, be a minor failure somewhere in there and some oil will escape. You see oil stains all over the roads and parking lots, and likely in your own garage. Unless it’s a major leak, it is not likely to cause you any trouble, but over time those tiny leaks add up. If you skip your oil change, your oil levels will eventually decrease so much that there is not enough to effectively cool or lubricate your engine. It is best to avoid the many expensive complications this can cause with a bit of routine maintenance, namely a regular oil change.





Preparing your car for a winter break

There are many people who don’t drive their cars during the winter. Some of them believe that the expenses for driving during the winter period are too high while others don’t feel safe to drive during winter. In any case, it’s a good idea to stay on top of car maintenance year-round.

Preparing the vehicle for the colds days, mandatory winter tires and snow chains, fuel, risk of accidents are some of the reasons why many people wrap up their cars and wait until the weather gets warmer. In case you want to park your car for a longer period of time you will need to take care of few other things besides locking the car and placing it on a safe place.

Before parking the vehicle always check and if necessary add antifreeze. Brake oil and engine oil should be fresh because these fluids are known for their ability to absorb moisture fast and easy which can later cause some serious problems with the engine of brake efficiency. Regular short driving keeps these fluids in a perfect condition.

In the past, all the reservoirs on the cars were made of metal, however many new car models come with plastic fuel tanks. So, in case you have a metal fuel tank, fill the tank to the maximum before parking the car for a longer period of time. When the tank is full there is no place for condensation on the inner side and in this way you will protect the metal tank from corrosion. If you have a plastic fuel tank this doesn’t mean that you should not fill the tank. In order to protect the fuel pump the tank should be at least half full. You won’t be wrong if you add a special stabilizer to the fuel. This stabilizer keeps the engine parts through which the fuel goes and prevents corrosion and decomposition of fuel due to prolonged storage.

The perfect solution for the vehicle would be to keep it parked in the garage during this period of inactivity. However, if you don’t own a garage you can use canvas car cover. Keep in mind that using a car cover like that is not completely harmless because you will have to remove the cover after every rain or snow in order to protect the paint from the moisture. On the other hand, it would be a good idea to wax the vehicle before winter and protect the paint. You can put some oiled cloth in the exhaust system in order to prevent moisture penetration, but don’t forget to remove this piece of cloth before starting the engine.

Even if you have decided to park the car in the winter period, you should regularly start the engine and take a short drive once in a while. If you don’t use your car at least once in two weeks in order to help the engine reach operating temperature, you will increase the risk of damage to the belts, the battery will discharge, the fuel and gas can evaporate etc. So, if you want the car to continue running even after the period of stagnation, make sure to start the engine once in a while.

Is Your Car Ready For A Long Holiday Trip

There is at least one major holiday in every season of the year, and many of them can lead to a lengthy trip, either as part of a vacation or to visit relatives. While there a lot of options when it comes to traveling, many people still opt to pack up the car and use the country’s roads. On the checklist that many people make when getting ready for a lengthy trip, a visit the auto repair shop is often near the top. If it is not, then at the least some routine points on the vehicle should be inspected before heading out. Getting a vehicle in top condition at least a week before the planned trip can help ensure that any issues that require a bit of work can be complete and tested in time. At the very least, you should make sure to have you roadside and insurance cards up to date and in the glove box, should anything go wrong.

Fluids and tires should be checked and topped off.

When it comes to your vehicle’s fluid levels, the inspection process is fairly easy and most driver’s should already be familiar with them. If not, it is a good idea to look up a guide online, or attend a brief class. Signal Garage in St. Paul, MD offers frequent instructional sessions to help teach basic car maintenance. The sign of a truly exceptional auto repair shop is one that is open to customers asking questions and learning how to take care of their vehicle. Though, no matter if you do so yourself and have them checked at the shop, all fluid levels should be good and tire pressures should be on point as well. Some consider it a good idea to take a vehicle in and get an oil change and basic inspection before long distance trips, just to be sure there are no signs of trouble you may not see. Another bit of maintenance that people will tend to in preparation for a long trip is the air filter. Depending on the destination, you can ask the mechanic at your auto repair shop if there are any other recommended bits of maintenance.

One point many drivers do not consider is the difference in laws.

Each state has their own set of laws in regards to vehicles and the modifications they allow. Before heading off, its a good idea to check and see if there is anything on the vehicle that may warrant a ticket in the destination state. Common aspects that are regulated include heavy Winter treads or snow spikes, window tinting, and ornamental lights. It is always wise to be prepared and if need be, to have lighting that sits along the bottom edges temporarily disabled. Some state or local troopers can be very serious in enforcing these regulations and nothing can dampen a trip like a hefty ticket or two. The charge for making these regulation friendly and temporary changes to your vehicle at an an auto repair shop in St. Paul, MD is often a lot lower than the ticket.

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