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Maintenance: A Volvo in Winter

2019-01-10 - Lee Holman VOLVOGIRL

Disclaimer: Direct from ipd’s Tech Tip archive!  This tech tip contains information from previous publications.  Products mentioned may not be available or the information may not be accurate due to changes in supply, manufacturing, or part number association.  Please contact ipd Customer Support if you have further questions  info@ipdusa.com

Coming from Sweden, Volvos are designed to handle even the harshest of winters. Nevertheless, since cold weather puts additional demands on both car and driver, we need to be prepared for the conditions we are like-ly to face. Getting through the winter without incident is no accident. Here are a few tips that have worked for me during many snowy Maine winters. Certainly there is nothing so comforting on a cold and frosty morning than having your car roar to life on the first try. While some people who live in the frozen north use block heaters, this is not always an option. Using a lighter weight or synthetic oil in the crankcase aids cold starts even at temperatures well below zero (F). Fresh ignition components can help insure a hot spark and sure starts, as well, especially when the weath-er is damp. A full fuel tank will help discourage condensation in the tank and offers more snow traction with a RWD car.

Your car's electrical system will have trouble keeping up if the charging system is not up to par. This is par-ticularly important in the winter when the demand for auxiliary electrical components, such as the blower motor and the rear window defroster, is increased. A good battery with clean connections and an alternator that puts out adequate voltage is good insurance in this department. If you can't garage your car, you'll need to clear the windshield and be sure the wipers are free from ice and snow before you drive off. Switching the wipers on when they are frozen to the glass can cause the wiper arms to become detached from the linkage assembly. I find using winter blades helps keep them from icing up in freezing rain and sleet. In any case, good blades and plenty of washer fluid are essential. You can't drive safely if you can't see. When the temperature gauge won't come up to mid-range, it's likely time to replace your thermostat. Assuming the blower motor is working there's no reason not to enjoy waves of delicious warmth from your heater. If it seems to deliver arctic cold or scorching heat, with no in between, the temperature control valve has probably failed. A working heater is important for safety as well as comfort. Driving in the cold without a working defroster can impair visibility.

No discussion of winter driving would be complete without mention of proper tires. All season tires may be appropriate for winter driving where there is little chance of freezing and icy, snowy roads. In some states, all season tires may be used, but driving on mountain roads requires snow chains. Even in areas where clear roads are the rule, treacherous black ice can form on wet pavement when the tem-perature dips below freezing. Modern winter tires provide traction, tread life, and handling far superior to the snow tires of old.
No longer is the concept of high performance snow tires an oxymoron.

It's best to have four identical dedicated snow tires, mounted on steel wheels. This saves the cost and trou-ble of mounting and balancing tires in the spring and fall. Real snow tires can help you stop and steer with confidence, even in deep snow. Traction is worthless if you can't brake and turn. Front wheel drive Volvos should also have snow tires all around, otherwise they can become flighty in the rear. With good snow tires and a couple of bags of tube sand over the rear axle (RWD), you can go almost any-where in your Volvo. This brings me to winter driving safety supplies. No matter how well we plan ahead, winter storms can still leave us stranded. While everybody's needs are different, here are a few additional items I carry with me during the winter months.

  • Ice scraper/snow broom for windows
  • A small, sturdy shovel
  • Sand, or other traction aids
  • A pair of jumper cables
  • A warm blanket, a pair of gloves, and boots
  • A towing strap
  • Tire chains
  • Reflective markers, to warn traffic of an obstacle ahead
  • Non-perishable, high-energy snacks

Whether you're off to the ski slopes, or driving around town, careful planning will help keep you safe and warm no matter what the weatherman sends your way.