Avoid winter engine trouble

Published: 25 January 2019

Ignition challenges

Winter conditions can have a real impact on a vehicle’s performance. It’s important to make sure that your car is prepared for the challenge – after all, no-one wants to be left stranded with a broken-down vehicle in the cold. Read on for advice on how to make sure your car starts every time, even in the most extreme winter weather, plus some important safety considerations. 

Cold weather plays havoc with the typical operation of ignition parts like spark plugs and glow plugs. Low temperatures and frost can adversely affect these parts and cause failure; 80% of replacement glow plug demand occurs between September and March. Making sure that your spark plugs and glow plugs are fit for purpose is an important way to winter-proof your car.

For diesel engines: The glow plug

Glow plugs ensure your vehicle starts smoothly on even the coldest days. To start a diesel engine in any weather, a high temperature in the combustion chamber is required and this can only be achieved with a high compression and fully functioning glow plugs. For this reason, DENSO advises replacing your glow plugs between 100,000 – 200,000 km and changing all of them (even if only one is faulty) to prevent any issues in winter.

The Thomas Group workshop can check the performance of your glow plugs to make sure they are functioning correctly. Healthy glow plugs also reduce combustion noise, vibrations and excessive emissions. 

Think safety: cold weather checks

It might seem basic, but these checks can keep you safe and keep you moving:

  • Ensure fuel and fluid levels are kept topped up; oil, engine coolant, screen wash and anti-freeze should all be full and it’s a good idea to keep a supply ready for regular top ups.
  • Tyre condition is more important than ever in colder weather so check the tread depth, tyre pressure and general state of the rubber for cracks, splits and general erosion.  
  • Check that your battery is full and all lights are working.
  • Test your brakes in a safe environment.

So you’ve taken precautions to reduce your risk of breaking down, but in the event that your car does leave you stranded, make sure that your car is packed with the essentials; create a cold weather emergency kit.

Keep a holdall in your boot with items to keep you warm and well should you find yourself stranded in the cold; a blanket, warm clothes, bottles of water and food supplies that will keep well for an extended period of time. Also include a torch, a first aid kit and a spare mobile phone power bank to ensure you can see and be seen and can call for help should you need it.

De-icer should be kept in the car and a warning triangle to alert other vehicles to your car.

While preparation is key, if the worst should happen, stay calm and call the emergency services.

© Denso

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