MainStreet Transmissions

and Auto Repair LLC

Winter Wiper Do’s and Don’ts…

The true test of wiper durability is during the winter… snow and ice covering the windshield and the wiper blade. Proper wiper care in the winter is helpful but some perceived remedies could actually damage your wiping system, windshield, or the finish of your vehicle.

If the car has been left out and the windshield is covered with ice and snow, the wipers are probably stuck to the windshield and may not easily lift off. Hopefully the wipers were in the “off” position when the engine shut down, so the system will not be working against the ice – possibly damaging the motor or linkage. First, NEVER pour hot water or liquid on the windshield to thaw it. The sudden change in temperature could crack and even shatter the windshield. Next, do not attempt to pull the wipers off the windshield. Doing so could rip the rubber, bend the frame, destroy the joints of the wiper… and if you pulled on the wiper arm you could bend the arm which could cause future wiper problems. Also, we do not recommend pouring any fluids on the windshield that are not intended for automotive use. These include brine (pickle juice) or alcohol (some have suggested vodka… really?). Use a winter formula washer fluid if you want to try to speed the process, but it must be winter formula. It’s best to proceed safely!

The best method is starting the vehicle and let the defroster slowly warm up the windshield. Once the ice on the windshield has started melting, an ice scraper should pry up the frozen coating. Wait until the thaw reaches the windshield wipers before pulling them up and cleaning the ice off the blade and arm. DO NOT run the wipers over frozen ice on the windshield. This has the same effect as running your hand over sandpaper. Jagged ice will destroy the rubber edge of the wiper and replacement is the only fix.

If you are able to prepare for icing, you may avoid a lot of problems. Some like to lift the wiper arms away from the windshield and have the blades suspended. This will help in snow conditions, but not icing. The blades will still ice up unless you cover them. Some suggest using socks, but if your blades are a popular 26” length you may need the socks from an NBA uniform to cover the length. Plastic bags secured with a rubber band have worked well, or some have used saran wrap.

Covering the entire windshield and wiper blades is another option. Aftermarket products accomplish this with a plastic film and magnets that hold the cover in place along the A-pillar. You could get the same results with a sheet of thin plastic that covers the windshield and wraps into the driver and passenger doorways, then close the door to keep it in place… but it should be THIN material.

Some consumers like winter blades or replace original frame blades with aero or beam style blades to minimize ice build-up in the frames. They work to a certain degree on the blade, but do not help clearing the ice off the windshield. The best tool you have to cope with wipers in winter good old common sense.

Changing Seasons Means More than Changing Temperatures

Proper tire maintenance keeps you safe and your vehicle performing at its best. Checking tire pressure is one of the most important, yet commonly overlooked inspection procedures. Consider the fact that air pressure is responsible for supporting the weight of a car, not the tires themselves. Manufacturer’s tire pressure specifications are designed to ensure peak handling and traction while maximizing fuel efficiency and tire service life.

Maintaining recommended tire pressure is more than simply “fill it and forget it.” Tire pressure fluctuates for a variety of reasons. Seasonal changes in temperature impacts tire pressure significantly, whether increasing or decreasing. Hotter temperatures cause air in tires to expand, which can result in tires being over-inflated. Cooler temperatures have the opposite effect, reducing air pressure. Interestingly, it is estimated that a 10°F change in temperature will increase or decrease tire pressure by 1 pound per square inch, or 1 PSI. In North America, the average change in temperature between summer and winter months is 50°F, meaning that changing seasons could impact tire pressure by 5 PSI or more, assuming no additional air loss has occurred. Normal driving also affects tire pressure. It’s estimated that within several miles of driving, tire temperature can rise by 20°F, increasing tire pressure by 2 PSI.

The effect of changing temperatures on tire pressure explains why drivers with TPMS (Tire Pressure monitoring System) equipped vehicles experience low pressure warning lights as temperatures drop. Unfortunately, drivers of vehicles without TPMS may not be aware of a possible unsafe tire condition.

The key to maintaining proper tire pressure is to check your tires regularly, especially during seasonal changes in temperature. For best results, always check tire pressure when the tires are cold, or only after driving the vehicle a short distance. And always follow the manufacturer’s recommended tire pressure, found in the vehicle owner’s manual or tire information placard (see fig. 1) located on the driver side door jamb

Don’t Slip Up: 5 Steps to Prepare Your Car for Winter

Before you know it, your car’s going to be at risk of slipping, sliding, and other common wintery issues. Is your car ready for the challenges of the winter season? Being proactive about winter car preparation can help keep you and your loved ones safer on the road.

Take these 5 steps to prepare your car for winter.

  1. Make Sure Your Tires Are Fit for Winter Weather– It’s wise to check the condition of your tires before winter hits. There are two key factors that affect tire performance, proper inflation and tread wear. Tire pressure should match the recommended tire inflation shown on the driver’s side door jamb placard or sticker. In most states, the minimum legal tread depth for a passenger tire is 2/32”. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards require that a passenger tire be manufactured with wear bars to allow for visual inspection of the tread depth. As illustrated, wear bars run across the width of a tire. If the surface of a tire is flush with the wear bar, the tread is less than 2/32” and needs to be replaced.
  2. Check on Your Car Battery and Headlights– One of the effects of cold temperature is that it causes the battery to work harder. This means your car battery will require more power to start the engine and to operate. You should find out if your battery is in good condition for this kind of strain. It may need to be replaced as a preventive measure.
  3. Stock Your Car’s Emergency Kit– Winter weather can be unpredictable, so be prepared for what winter may throw your way. In case of an emergency like engine trouble or sliding into a snowdrift, there are certain items you should keep on hand. This is extremely important for your safety. Create an emergency kit to keep in your trunk. Be sure your kit includes:
    • Blanket
    • Flares
    • Jumper cables
    • Toolkit
    • First-aid kit
    • Boots, gloves, and warm clothes
    • Water and non-perishable food
    • An ice scraper and a small shovel
    • A flashlight and backup phone-charging battery
    • Windshield washer fluid
    • Tire chains, a tire gauge, a spare tire, and tire-changing equipment
    • Abrasive material like sand, salt or non-clumping kitty litter for traction if you get stuck
  4. Replace Your Windshield Wipers- If you live in an area that gets ice and snow, it is essential to use good quality wiper blades. Be sure to keep an ice scraper handy too wipers are not designed to clear ice off the windshield.
  5. Ask an Automotive Technician to Winterize Your Vehicle– Your car also needs specific types of maintenance performed in preparation for winter. For example, check the cooling system, belts, tensioners and hoses. Some manufacturers suggest changing the oil and replacing dirty filters seasonally.

In some cases, batteries just need to have corrosion removed and have the cables inspected to be ready for winter. In the process, clean and/or restore your headlights. These are essential for safety, especially when your headlights may need to shine through elements like snow or sleet.