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As the temperatures begin to fall, there's no better time to perform a winter maintenance check on your vehicles and outdoor engines. Here are 10 tips to help you make sure that your fleet is ready for even the worst winter weather.
Keep your gas tank at least half full. Water vapor can collect in the bottom of your tank and when drawn into your engine’s fuel line, it can freeze in the winter and prevent your engine from starting. Adding a bottle of gas-line antifreeze such as HEET® or Iso-HEET® to your gas tank combines with the water and enables it to be burned.
As the temperature drops, it's important to make sure you are using the right viscosity of motor oil. In especially cold climates, even oil with a viscosity of 10W-30 may be too thick! It's best to check your owner's manual for the recommended viscosity for freezing temperatures.
Just as heat and everyday driving can cause wear and tear on your vehicle's belts, so can cold weather. A worn timing or v-belt could spell disaster for you and your vehicle, especially when driving in remote regions. Make a belt inspection part of your regular routine and check for signs of fraying or cracking. Change any worn belts now to help avoid a breakdown during the worst of winter.
The best time to check and top off your vehicle's fluids is before harsh winter weather hits. Check and top off engine coolants, power steering, brake, windshield washer and battery fluids.
If your engine gets off to a rough, jittery start, misfires or simply doesn't want to start, there's a good chance it could be the spark plugs. The side of the road is certainly no place to be in a winter storm. So check your spark plugs, making sure to clean or replace them if necessary.
Summer heat takes its toll on batteries. However, in the winter cold, when you need the extra cranking power, your battery may not be up to the task. Consider replacing it if it is more than 3 years old and keep the contacts free of corrosion with a battery post and terminal cleaner.
Inspect wiper blades for fraying or cracking and consider using heavy-duty winter blades for tough ice buildup.
If your vehicles operate in a cold region with snow and ice, all weather tires may not offer the best performance. Consider outfitting your fleet with winter tires instead. They offer better traction in icy conditions and even cold, dry roads.
In the darker winter months, it’s important to be seen by other drivers. Walk around your vehicle to make sure all lights are working.
With slippery winter road conditions, making sure that your brakes are in working order is a top priority. If your brakes make a high-pitched squealing sound when engaged, it's time change them out for a new pair.
Other engine maintenance: It’s important to also keep other equipment running through the winter season. Snow throwers, generators and other two- and four-cycle engines may not be used for long periods of time. As a result, the fuel may form gum and varnish deposits.
In less than 60 days, these deposits can clog fuel lines, injectors and fuel filters. The results are startup problems, sluggish performance and even reduced engine life. By adding a gasoline stabilizer such as STA-BIL®, the fuel will remain fresh for up to 12 months and helps prevent gum and varnish build-up during months of storage. STA-BIL® also prevents corrosion and rust caused by accumulated condensation in the fuel system.