(BPT) - Warming up his car for a few minutes before heading to work is a winter morning routine for Steve Bailey. 'I hate getting into a cold car, so letting it warm up for five minutes is as important for me as for the vehicle,' says Bailey, who lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
'My car is parked outside and I think it runs better after idling for a while, especially on below-zero mornings,' he says.
Plenty of cold-climate folks share Bailey's winter car-care philosophy. But advancements in engine technology is reducing the need to idle, even in colder temperatures. According to many auto industry experts, the efficiency of today's fuel-injected engines makes winter idling nearly unnecessary for most cars. U.S. Department of Energy experts report driving a gas-powered vehicle warms it twice as fast as idling it, and most auto manufacturers recommend starting your car, then driving slowly after only about 30 seconds of idling.
Excessive idling also wastes fuel and adds harmful emissions to the atmosphere. Many states and municipalities have enacted idling restrictions to curb auto emissions and minimize human exposure to carbon monoxide and other noxious exhaust gases.
Instead of warming your car each morning this winter, you'll be better off taking time now to winterize your vehicle. AAA recommends checking these five key areas:
1. Consider an oil change. 'Motor oil is one of the most important fluids in a car, so it's important to go into winter knowing you've got clean, high-quality oil to keep the engine lubricated, even in frigid temperatures,' says Andrew Hamilton, technical services manager for Cenex brand lubricants.
Deciding whether to change your car's oil type before temperatures plunge depends on the number of miles you drive and the type of motor oil you use. 'Traditional mineral-based oils tend to thicken in cold temperatures, which can cause unnecessary engine wear,' says Hamilton. 'They also need to be changed more often than newer synthetic-blend or full-synthetic oils. Full synthetic oils, like Cenex Maxtron 5W-30, flow better at low temperatures, for easier cold startups, and they provide longer performance, taking most cars up to 10,000 miles between oil changes.'
Not sure which oil to buy? Hamilton recommends using the online vehicle and equipment lookup tool found at Cenex.com. 'Find your vehicle's make and model, and the tool will give you engine oil recommendations that match its maintenance needs.'
2. Check tire pressure. Properly inflated tires maximize traction on wet or icy roads and help protect against wheel damage from potholes.
3. Test your battery. Batteries usually give little notice before dying. Since cold temperatures can reduce power by up to 50 percent, batteries that have been used for three years or more should be tested. Make sure posts and connections are free of corrosion. Remove any corrosion with a solution of baking soda and water, using a small wire brush.
4. Top off antifreeze. Make sure your car's radiator contains the proper amount of a 50/50 mix of coolant and water. You can check the composition of radiator fluid using an inexpensive tester, available at auto parts stores. Be sure to check the antifreeze label to see if the product you are buying is premixed.
5. Inspect wipers and fluid level. Shorter days and precipitation ranging from snow and ice to sleet and rain pose visibility challenges in winter. Make sure wiper blades are in good condition and replace them if they're more than a year old. Be sure the windshield washer fluid reservoir is filled with no-freeze washer fluid.
For additional automotive maintenance tips and an opportunity to nominate someone for free fuel this winter, visit Cenex.com.