Petronas offers advice for driving during winter

Petronas offers advice for driving during winter

David Aldous, business development manager at Petronas, offers his advice to workshops and their customers this winter.

Most of us would agree that winter journeys are often the worst of the year. There’s ice on the road. The mercury’s hitting zero. You’re stuck in traffic. And the radio has already played ‘Last Christmas’ six times this morning. The last thing you need is your car breaking down…

Well, don’t be fooled by the temperatures outside. Contrary to what you might think, vehicle overheating actually mainly occurs in the winter, often due to a fault with the cooling system such as a blocked thermostat, coolant leak or failing water pump. When overheating occurs, it can cause mid-journey driving issues and potentially expensive or even irreparable damage.

Spot the signs

To avoid these problems, it’s firstly important to be able to spot the signs. Hints that your engine is overheating include burning smells, engine noises, a temperature gauge in the red zone, and an excessively hot bonnet.

But what can we do to deal with these warnings once they present themselves? And how can we prevent them from occurring at all, so our festive journeys are as stress-free and pleasant as possible? Let’s take a look.

1. Carry out a coolant flush

Over time, everyday dirt and debris from the road can build up and block your engine’s cooling system, preventing it from managing internal temperatures. A coolant flush drains these contaminants from your engine, making it a crucial procedure for maintaining a healthy vehicle and avoiding radiator clogs, engine corrosion, leaks, thermostat damage, and water pump issues.

Your car manufacturer’s manual should offer specialist advice on when and how to do a coolant flush for your model. Some new long-life coolants have a much longer life cycle, but for older vehicles, as a rule, you should try to carry out a flush every two years or every 40,000 miles— whichever comes first.

Regular coolant flushing should help your radiator regulate engine temperatures and nip overheating in the bud. However, we can’t always be this prepared or proactive. So, what should we do if we face an overheating vehicle mid-journey? 

2. Switch on the heat

It sounds crazy, but it’s true: to cool your car’s engine, you may need to pump warm air into your passenger compartments.

Switching on your heating and blowers actually transfers heat away from the engine. It also opens up your heater core, a smaller version of the radiator that sits towards the front of your car, giving your engine the chance to draw in fresher, cooler air and operate at a safer temperature. So, the good news is you can blast those heat blowers to cool your frozen fingers on the steering wheel, safe in the knowledge that it’s also helping to keep your engine healthy. 

3. Rev your engine or pull over

If your journey involves regular stops and starts due to traffic or stoplights, it’s a good idea to rev your engine while stationary. Revving helps to pump water through the radiator and speed up the fan (if controlled by the engine), cooling internal temperatures.

But once you begin slowly moving again, try to avoid riding your brakes— brake drag further increases the load on your engine. Instead, let a larger gap open between you and the vehicle in front before you move forward.

If none of these steps help, and your engine temperature is climbing out of control, pull over to the side of the road. Then, open your car bonnet to let heat directly escape out of the engine bay.

However, under no circumstances should your customers then touch any internal components, particularly the engine or radiator. A vehicle’s water and coolant mix is pressurised when hot, and opening the radiator cap can cause the coolant to spray out and cause serious skin burns. If you must open it, wait until your engine has completely cooled. 

4. Choose a quality engine oil

Modern engines operate at higher temperatures and with more moving parts than ever before. To function properly, these moving parts need to be lubricated to reduce friction, while dissipating heat to protect the engine’s performance.

A high-quality engine oil for both cars and motorcycles can help to fight excessive engine temperature by regulating and absorbing heat, defending critical components from damage, and reducing fuel consumption.

Fortunately, multi-viscosity oils can adapt to year-round temperatures by thinning out during the winter to flow faster through the engine and better lubricate its components. For instance, a 10W-40 oil has a viscosity grade of 10 in lower temperatures and 40 in higher ones.

Remember: you must choose the correct oil and viscosity for your model recommended by the manufacturer to avoid further vehicle issues. Before you buy, use tools such as a lubricant recommender to find a product that keeps your engine safe and running smoothly.

Stay cool this winter

Ultimately, the engine is the heart of your vehicle. So we must treat it with great care and attention. Regular overheating can limit its lifespan and major repairs can even exceed its entire value, resulting in an insurance write-off.

As the famous saying goes, ‘prevention is better than cure’. While you might not expect your engine to overheat in cool weather and feel you can fix it even if it does, this may not always be the case.

Instead, it’s best to carry out regular coolant flushes and invest in high-quality engine oils, regardless of how well your engine seems to be running. It might just save you stacks of time and cash—and help make your big drive home for Christmas as pleasant as you’d planned.

Want to know more? For more information click here.

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