Tips for driving in cold weather

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Weak car batteries are one of winter’s most common causes of breakdowns. “The culprit is driving distances that are too short coupled with too many power consumers in the vehicle being turned on at the same time – this is usually true even with new batteries. A car’s alternator needs about 10 minutes of driving time to recover the amount of electricity consumed at the start,” explains ÖAMTC technician Steffan Kerbl. If other electricity consumers, such as the radio, fan or seat heater, are switched on on a cold winter’s day, the alternator can only cover the current consumption. There is then no power left for the battery to charge. This leads to problems, especially in winter when driving short distances. “Lights and ventilation cannot be dispensed with, but rear window and seat heating do not necessarily have to be switched on at the same time,” says Kerbl.

No flow improver for diesel vehicles: winter diesel contains additives that keep the diesel fuel flowable down to a temperature of minus 20 degrees and thus prevent kerosene precipitation. Flow improvers can worsen the properties of diesel fuel. If you know you will be driving in areas even colder than minus 20 degrees, it is best to fill up with extreme winter diesel. This is available at many filling stations. If you are unsure, looking at the owner’s manual will help.

Treat rubber parts: The seals on the doors and trunk should be treated with rubber care products in winter to prevent them from freezing. If the doors do not open easily, a simple trick can help: do not yank on the door right away, but first squeeze the door a little, so that the ice crystals on the seals can be loosened somewhat without damaging the seals.

Refill antifreeze: Radiators, cooling hoses, and, in extreme cases, the engine can be damaged if the cooling water freezes. The radiator antifreeze must be suitable for temperatures down to at least minus 25 degrees Celsius, and the antifreeze for the windshield washer system must be appropriate for temperatures down to minus 20 degrees.

Protect wiper blades: To prevent them from freezing, they should be folded away from the windshield overnight.

Have an ice scraper ready: Ice scrapers are the best way to combat icy windshields. “De-icing” sprays can only assist in ice scraping. Hot water is unsuitable and can even cause the windscreen to burst,” warns the ÖAMTC technical expert.

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