DIY Guide To Winter Car Repairs

The DIY Winter Car Repair and Maintenance Guide

Fixing up your own vehicle is easy with these five steps for basic car maintenance. Even if you’re not a professional mechanic, doing some basic car maintenance will extend its life.

Here’s a collection of 10-15 minute fixes you can easily do to your car that will save you money immediately or prevent future repair bills.

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Air Filters

The air-fuel mixture is what determines the fuel economy of the car and the engine needs just as much air as fuel and to maintain steady and clean flow of air into the engine cylinders it is necessary to have a clean air filter that will stop unwanted particles from ruining your engine and its economy. These filters also have the ability to soak the moisture that may get into the cylinders which is a high possibility in the winter when the precipitation is high. Moisture is the engines enemy and keeping it out is the job of the air filter hence getting a replacement before the winter arrives would benefit the engine and avoid trouble down the road.

It’s fairly easy to replace the air filter as it is located right on top in the engine bay and requires no special tools to replace. Here's an easy guide to getting your air filter change before the mercury drops:

Step 1: Turn the engine off and make sure the components under the hood are cold to touch.

Step 2: Next step is spotting the air filter cover which is usually located on the top of the engine bay and is covered in a plastic casing with metal clips or screws.

Step 3: Take off the clips and/or screws and the old air filter is exposed.

Step 4: Remove the filter and with a clean dry cloth to wipe the interior of the casing making sure no particles enter into the plenum.

Step 5: Place the new Air Filter and make sure it’s a snug fit in the opening.

Step 6: Close the casing and secure it with clips or screws.

Spark Plugs

No matter how many horsepower your engine churns out, without the right spark plugs they cannot be delivered to your wheels. Spark plugs need to be replaced every 50000 km/30000 miles or every year depending on your usage and failing to do so may prevent your engine from starting up. The spark plugs face a large amount of heat and can get busted especially in the winter conditions where the change in temperature is extreme causing spark plug failure and preventing engine start-up. Therefore, replacing the spark plugs before the oncoming winter may help you get out of that freezing cold and into the warmth of your home the next time you are out in the freezing cold.

Spark plug replacement may sound challenging but it is a straight forward job and only requires attention and a little patience.

Step 1: Turn off the engine and wait for a cooled down engine bay.

Step 2: Finding the spark plug is a little tricky but can be easily spotted if you look for large rubber wires that are situated on the cylinder head and are the exact amount as the number of cylinders in your engine. For further clarification you may refer to the service manual of the car.

Step 3: Once spotted, the wire can be gently pulled out by shoving back and forth. The ignition coil is what follows and the spark plug sits underneath these – threaded down to the cylinder head.

Step 4: To undo the spark plug you require a spark plug socket and an extension attached to the ratchet.

Step 5: Replace the old spark plug with a new one and tighten it by hand and then with the ratchet but avoid over-tightening them as that may tear the rubber seals.

Step 6: Reinsert the coil and wires until they are firmly seated and do not show any play when wiggled.

Step 7: Repeat these steps for all the plugs making sure everything is seated correctly and tightened to the right extent.

Brake pads

If you have driven in the winter, then you know that the hardest part while driving in the snow or wet roads is braking. In snowy and wet roads, the wheels start to hydroplane causing the car to spin off even when the brakes are applied, this is because the abs system tries to moderate the braking to allow maximum traction but all the efforts are not just down to abs, even the brake pads and rotors must contribute significantly in order for the best braking results and thus it is essential to get a fresh pair of brake pads that can perform well when required and prevent mishaps.

Brake pads replacements is a little complicated but with the right help and a detailed guide you can DIY:

Step 1: Park the car on an even surface and turn off the engine. Wait for the rotors and pads to cool down if recently driven.

Step 2: Depending on your car, the front or the rear brakes must be replaced in an order. Refer the service manual for more information.

Step 3: loosen the lug nuts on the wheel and lift the car up on jacks.

Step 4: Once lifted, remove the wheel from the rotor.

Step 5: The brake callipers are now exposed and ready to disassemble. Turn the wheel so that it is easier to access the callipers.

Step 6: The callipers piston needs to be compressed in order to accommodate the new brake pads.

Step 7: Use a hose and open the bleeder screw and compress the piston using a screwdriver. Once the piston is completely compressed, close the bleeder screw.

Step 8: Undo the bolts holding down the calliper to the bracket and remove the calliper from the rotor and hang it to avoid damaging the hose 

Step 9: Remove the old brake pads from the abutment clip and place the new brake pads firmly.

Step 10: Place the callipers on the bracket and redo the bolts to the correct torque specifications. Reinsert the wheels in the lug struts and redo the lug nuts to torque specifications.

Step 11: Fill the brake fluid reservoir and pump the brakes back and forth. This will introduce fluid back into the bled brake callipers. Make sure to top up the brake fluid reservoir again to the indicated level.

Step 12: Repeat this process for all the wheels. 

Wiper Blades / Winter blades

Wiper blades are used to rid the windshield of any dirt, water, snow or splatter than can hinder the drivers vision especially in monsoon or winter. The wiper blades are an important part of your cars safety feature and must be replaced regularly as they can prevent proper vision. During cold winter weather events, raising the blades off the windshield prevents them from freezing to it. In the winter snow and ice can clog up and freeze the wiper blade mechanism which may render it inefficient and can also damage the windshield and hence Winter Blades are recommended that have a rubber lining which seals the mechanisms and extends the life of the blades in the winter.

Replacement of the wiper blades is a very easy task and can be attempted without any tools. The DIY is as follows:

Step 1: Lift the driver’s side wiper blade up so that they are not resting on the windshield.

Step 2: The clip or tab is visible on the wiper arm. Disengage the clip or tab and the wiper blade should come right off.

Step 3: Insert the new Wiper blade the same way the old was removed. You will hear a click sound that certifies the blade is seated correctly.

Step 4: Repeat this process for the passenger side blade and the rear wiper blade is there is one.

Tire Air Pressure

The tire air pressure drops 1 psi for every 10 degree drop in temperature and as the temperature secludes under the 0-degree mark, the tires lose enough pressure to cause a bulge in the side. Snow and wet driving requires recommended tire pressure and hence one must always regularly check the tire air pressure to maintain proper road traction.

Checking the tire pressure on your car is as easy as refuelling your tank. Follow these steps to learn your car's tire pressure:

Step 1: Park the car and undo the cap that goes on the pressure valve.

Step 2: Grab a tire pressure gauge and press on the valve. This will show the tire pressure in the wheel.

Step 3: To determine the operational tire pressure of your car, refer to the tire air pressure plaque located on the door sill or find it in the owner’s manual.

Step 4: If the pressure is lower than the operational pressure of the tire, fill more air in using a compressor or find one at a local gas station.

Step 5: Once the tire pressure is correct redo the cap and the tire is ready to roll.

Tire Tread Depth

The tire tread is also important as it determines how effective the tires are on the road surface. A worn tire will not grip the road and so the handling, acceleration and braking will reduce dramatically. It is recommended to have at least 3 mm of tread depth on your tires and anything below that mark warrants a tire replacement. 

With the tires inflated to the correct pressure, check the tread depth either using a tread depth gauge or with a coin like a toonie. Insert the prong end of the gauge between the tread and take a reading from the dial. If using a toonie then insert it within the tread of the tire at different intervals. If the rubber reaches the bear paws, then your tires are likely new. But if the silver end is completely visible then start shopping for new tires asap.

Winter Tires

Driving on snow and ice covered roads is very challenging even for experienced drivers. This is because the traditional summer and even all-season tires, which make the ultimate contact with the road surface, are not designed to tackle snow and ice and so there is a lot of skidding and slipping involved which makes driving on such roads very difficult. But with Winter Tires, the tires gain a lot of traction or grip with the road surface which ensures the driver has better control over the vehicle and therefore makes riding safer and easier. Winter tires are specially designed for use on snowy, icy, slush roads so the driver has more confidence going over such road conditions and allows him/her to brake, accelerate and corner faster and safer. 

Consider switching to winter tires when the temperature starts to trickle down for your family’s and vehicle’s safety. To get your tires changed to winter ones go to your local mechanic and have your old tires removed and swapped for winter tires. Alternatively you can get a set of rims or wheels only for winter tires so that you don't have to remove and replace the tire every winter season. 

Vehicular Lights

Daylight is drastically reduced during the winter months and so we must rely more on the lights on our vehicle for clear visibility. Having all functioning lights not only provides you with illumination but other road users and motorists can stay aware of your presence on the roads which decreases the chances of collisions. Winter weather is unpredictable with dense fogs and heavy snowstorms blocking the road view at any given moment. In such cases we must be prepared and having fully functioning lighting systems in the vehicle is very important. 

Start by checking all the bulbs in the vehicle for damage and clean the lenses for better clarity. Park in a dim garage room or take help from another individual to confirm lights in the rear are working properly as you push the brake pedal. Switch on all the lights from indicator signal lights to brake lights. Replace any bulbs that don’t work immediately. 

The replacement process will vary between vehicles. Usually the procedure involves opening the hood or trunk lid, accessing the light bulbs after removing the screws for the lens and then removing and replacing the bulbs.