Things with Feathers: Show some love for your vehicle this winter
When I was 15, my dad and I drove 40 minutes to see a pickup.
It was a little 1998 Dodge Dakota at a dealership in Watertown, and my dad had a good feeling about it — not too many miles, a nice engine and a promise that the salesman would throw in a new set of winter tires if we took it home the same day.
And so we did.
While the “Green Machine” was intended for use as a farm vehicle (aka putting up fences and selling sweet corn), she quickly became my ride to and from school and eventually followed me to college and on assignment down gravel roads as an agriculture reporter.
Since the beginning, her engine has always roared to life — rain or shine, sweltering heat or below freezing temperatures. But Feb. 15, when temperatures fell to 26 below, the Green Machine refused to turn over for the first time in eight years.
Truth be told, my pickup has some cold weather quirks, just as many vehicles do. I always know when winter’s started, as the right-side speaker stops working. Every fifth time I unlock the driver side door and the temperature’s below 40, the car alarm goes off. Two-wheel drive means that oftentimes the only reason we make it home is thanks to four sandbags in the back, prayer and words of affirmation.
Sometimes the heat works and other times I play “Havana” by Camila Cabello really loudly and think warm thoughts.
And honestly, I get it. The wintertime can be extra dreary, and record low temperatures don’t make leaving the house and driving to work any easier.
But, just as we should bundle up and take precautions before venturing into the frigid outdoors, we should also take extra care with our vehicles — even if they are typically as resilient as the Green Machine.
Duance Lukes, manager at Tires, Tires, Tires, said there are four things that drivers can do to make sure that their vehicle will start, regardless of the temperature:
Change your oil on a regular basis
Cold temperatures can make oil more viscous, which means the oil will flow slower or not at all. Without normal flow, a car or pickup can have a difficult time starting.
Check the battery
Extreme temperatures can take a toll on a battery, regardless of its life expectancy. While batteries are usually good for about five years, vehicle technicians will do regular battery checks in the shop. Drivers can also do a visual check for corrosion.
“The heat’s just as hard as the cold on batteries,” Lukes said.
Turn the key to accessories and wait
Before fully starting the vehicle, turn the key just one notch to the accessories setting. Lukes said this will give the battery time to warm up before cranking the engine and give the vehicle a better chance of actually starting.
Maintain regular maintenance
Show love on a regular basis for your car, pickup or otherwise. Keep the gas tank at least half full, check air levels in the tires every now and then and always note when a warning light or new noise appears.
And, if all else fails, I’d recommend a few kind parting words before hitching a ride with a friend.