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Author Mark SalemNotes From The Road

This Winter, Don’t Get Your Car Stuck Before It Gets Started
By Mark Salem, NASCAR® Performance Crew Chief

NASCAR® drivers have it easy; they only race in warm weather. Regular folks like you and me don’t have that luxury. We often have to get our vehicles started in very cold temperatures, and we don’t have pit crews to help us out if things go wrong.

So, it's that much more important for the rest of us that we keep our vehicles in peak condition as winter’s cold weather approaches. By taking a few basic precautions, you’ll be far less likely to find yourself on the side of the road waiting for a tow truck to arrive.

Keep an eye on your battery. A battery’s cranking power is reduced significantly in freezing weather. Older batteries are notorious for fooling drivers by working just fine in warmer weather, then failing as soon as the weather turns cold. If yours is at least four years old, have it tested by your mechanic. When it doubt, replace it. And just to be safe, carry a set of quality jumper cables at all times in the vehicle. You may also want to consider buying a portable power pack, which can be used in emergency starts.

Motor Oil
Give some thought to the kind of motor oil you have in your engine. During winter, you need an oil that can handle low temperatures and quickly flow to critical engine parts on those cold mornings. I’d recommend a fully synthetic oil such as Mobil 1 for the winter months; it’s designed to flow well even in lower temperatures and is an excellent oil overall.

Filters, Coolant and Hoses
Make sure your three main filters – oil, gas and air – are in good condition. Check your coolant level and the thermostat, as these elements make sure that your engine warms up properly. Coolant should be changed every two years; extended-life coolants last about five years. Also, be sure to test your heater and defroster, since you can’t drive if you can’t see through your windshield. Finally, check for leaking or soft hoses and have them replaced if need be.

Tire Pressure
Remember, air contracts in cold weather, and the air in your tires is no exception. Your tire pressure will go down as the weather cools, so make sure your tires are inflated properly. Too little pressure will increase wear and increase your fuel consumption; too much pressure can reduce traction, especially in icy conditions. The proper air pressure listings are often found on the side of the driver’s door, or in the glove box. (Don’t just look at the psi rating listed on the tire itself; that is the maximum psi, not necessarily the recommended pressure.) Make sure you also inspect your treads and replace any tires that are looking worn.

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