If you were to see a pickup truck roll off the assembly line, there would be very little doubt in your mind that you were gazing upon one of the most finely engineered creations man has ever conceived. And yet, life in Canada has a way of bringing even the mightiest of machines to its knees. While its not our intent to put the fear of frost into you – it really is in your best interest to spend a couple of hours this fall to make sure your diesel truck is prepared to shrug off the worst Mother Nature can throw at it once the winter apocalypse begins.
Address your fluids
We’ve often heard automakers refer to your vehicle’s oil as the “lifeblood of your engine”. Quite right. For the winter months at least, you may want to consider switching to a synthetic oil. Synthetic oil is thinner than conventional mineral based oil and performs better in extremely cold temperatures. It also resists degradation more effectively than its conventional counterpart.
Although the recommended interval between oil changes can vary depending on the type of vehicle, it’s generally recommended that your oil is changed every 3,000 – 5,000 miles (4,800 – 8,000 km); using a synthetic can increase that interval between changes to 7,500 miles (12,000 km). Strategically speaking, you can make sure your engine is properly lubricated over the winter’s harshest months, without having to replace it until spring – which is great news if you’re a DIYer.
Take a quick look for leaks
If you notice a leak, hunt it down now while the weather is in your favour. While it’s possible to locate a leak in the winter, it won’t be a pleasant experience; first you’ll have to idle your vehicle and wait for the liquid to thaw before you can locate its source, and honestly, there isn’t a lot of appeal in lying down on an ice-cold driveway to fix a leak in the middle of February when you could have nipped it in the bud in October.
Brakes and hydraulics
The fall is not only an optimal last chance to check for leaks, but also a good time to check your brakes and change your brake fluid. If you tend to change out the fluids of your truck yourself, this may be your last chance to do so, unless you have a heated garage. Flushing out and replacing your brake fluid allows you to purge the system; removing dirt, air, and moisture from the system.
Be sure to also take your vehicle out during or after the first snowfall and perform a controlled skid; this will help you to determine if the brakes are operating correctly in less than optimal conditions. Obviously, it’s always better to find and deal with any issues early on, and performing this little diagnostic test can save you a bit of time and money down the road.
Your truck’s battery, like all the other components, has a finite lifespan. On average, you can bank on your battery getting you from point A to point B for approximately four years, although depending on where you live and factors like driving conditions, your driving habits, and the condition of your charging system, this lifespan can vary. If you suspect your battery may be starting to lose power, it may be that there is something amiss with the battery cables, the alternator, or the battery itself.
The most common issues relating to battery cables is a loose or corroded connection. These are among the easiest issues to address; cleaning a terminal means you simply have to remove the cable clamp from the battery and clean the connection well. Terminal cleaners are readily available in most auto parts sections and are generally inexpensive. If your terminal is loose, you can install a sleeve insert which will provide a better contact between the cable and the battery.
If it’s not the cables, it may be the alternator. Get this tested as soon as possible to make sure it’s putting out the right amount of power.
If it comes down to it and you need to replace a battery, be sure to replace both of them at the same time. Replacing both batteries at the same time will benefit you in two ways. The first, less frequent battery replacement. The second benefit to having two new batteries means you’ll have your charging system at maximum strength which is always a good thing during the winter.
Give yourself extra time
Giving yourself extra time to get to your destination is a smart idea, especially when the mercury plummets. Adapt the way you start your vehicle after it has been sitting in the cold. In very cold temperatures, the liquids in your engine can get thicker; resulting in slowing the internal movements of your engine. Allow your engine a decent amount of time to warm up and allow those fluids to return to the proper viscosity. Allowing your power steering fluid to warm up is also a good idea as turning the steering wheel before the fluid has had a chance to warm up can result in a leaking hose.
Figure out where your vehicle will live this winter
Got a heated garage? Perfect. Your truck will be warm and happy all winter long. If you don’t, you can still provide your truck with some protection from the elements. Vehicle shelters are inexpensive and can help keep your truck away from snow and ice storms. Set up the shelter within range of your house and 110 volt power source will allow you to utilize the block heater. Best of all, a shelter means no more scrapping ice off your windshield every morning.