The Boston Motor Werks Guide to Complete BMW Winterization
The weather is about to start cooling down, and soon it will be winter. Sub-zero temperatures, ice, and snow will all combine to create dangerous driving conditions. Some of these factors will also negatively impact your BMW’s performance. And then there’s the salt. Boston uses an enormous amount of salt on the roads in order to keep them driveable. But salt is corrosive, and can damage your BMW’s paint and finish, as well as the exposed parts and metal beneath the car.
“Out of sight, out of mind” can create serious headaches when it comes to driving during a Boston winter. Here are the most important items to check on your BMW if you plan to do so, and want to minimize the toll it takes on you and your vehicle.
Cold temperatures do bad things to batteries. Cold batteries lose starting power, and cold engines take more power to turn over. As a result, starting your car may become impossible. Your trip will end before it even gets started.
Have your battery load tested to ensure it’s capable of starting your car during the well-below-freezing temperatures we’re sure to see this winter.
Keep your tire pressure at its recommended level. Too much or too little air in the tires will reduce the amount of rubber making contact with the road. Cold weather reduces air pressure in your tires (around 1 psi per 10 degrees), so be prepared to put more air in (or let a bit out) depending on the weather.
Depending on where you’re driving, snow tires may be a good idea. Snow tires are made of softer rubber, with tread patterns designed for increased grip in snowy conditions. They won’t stop you from sliding out, but they will help.
Check with a quality area mechanic to determine whether investing in snow tires is a good value for you.
Whether or not you plan to change tire types, you need brakes that function properly in winter more than any other season. Inspect your braking system to ensure you have all of your stopping power available when you need it.
Antifreeze will help keep your engine from icing over, and protects it from corrosion. But antifreeze loses its effectiveness over time. If it’s been a while since you’ve changed it (not just added more, but put a full volume of new fluid in), plan to do so before the temperatures drop too much.
Keep in mind that engines require a mix of antifreeze and water, which may be adjusted for cold weather climates. If you’re not confident in adjusting the ratio, your mechanic should be able to take care of it for you.
Oil thickens as temperatures drop. Thick oil doesn’t lubricate or move through a cold engine as efficiently as it is meant to. It used to be the case that switching to a lighter weight oil was recommended for any model of vehicle. However, this may not be appropriate for your BMW.
Consult your owner’s manual for winter oil recommendations. If a change of oil is required, the proper weight will be listed.
Washer Fluid & Wipers
Rain & snowfall do not concern themselves with your schedule. They can and will show up during your commute, adding decreased visibility to the hazards you have to deal with. Don’t crash because you can’t see out of your windshield!
Water may do the job during the warmer months, but it’s a horrible solution to winter windshield woes. Frozen water in your reservoir and hoses is bad; frozen water on your windshield is worse. Replace it with a winter-ready solution so you don’t get caught out with no way to see what’s in front of you.
In the same vein, check your wiper blades. Many wiper blades aren’t meant to last over a year, and they will take extra punishment during the winter. If they’re showing signs of wear and tear, or you notice they’re not performing as they should, replace them with new blades.
Speaking of visibility: functioning lightbulbs are a must-have for road safety. If your BMW is sporting traditional head/tail lamps (not LED lamps), check to ensure all of your bulbs are working properly.
Snow and ice that stick to your boots, clothes, and belongings will melt in your car. Water isn’t great for your interior; and salt is worse. Protect your car’s interior with appropriate accessories. Rubber floor mats can keep salt from your carpets, and seat covers will do the same for your leather.
A responsible driver will always have some emergency supplies in their vehicle. In the cold Boston winter, consider adding seasonal items such as heavy/insulating blankets, spare snow boots and jackets. If not already part of your emergency kit, also consider adding flares, a radio, engine oil, washer fluid, coolant/antifreeze, and an LED flashlight.
Salt damage prevention
Salt damage is a real concern for Boston auto owners. The winters are already rough, but the salt corrosion can do significant damage to the paint and the exposed metal parts of your vehicle. The best way to keep your BMW in its best condition is to avoid as much of this salt damage as possible. If you will be driving your vehicle this winter, it will be exposed to salt; here’s how you can minimize its effects on your car.
Preventative wash, wax & sealing
Waxing and sealing is what will protect your car from salt corrosion; but the car has to be cleaned first.
Right before temperatures begin to drop, have your car’s exterior thoroughly cleaned with water and a car washing detergent. Don’t skimp out and use dish soap, as it will strip your paint’s finish. Be sure to have the undercarriage cleaned as well.
Once the car is cleaned, have the paint waxed and sealed, and have the undercarriage sealed. Pay close attention to the brake and fuel lines, as they are the most vulnerable to salt damage.
Maintenance wash, wax & seal
Unfortunately, the initial wash and wax may not last you the whole winter. This will depend upon how much you drive and how often the roads you use are salted. If the salting is heavy, return trips may be necessary.
Some car washes will provide steam cleaning and undercarriage cleaning in addition to standard washes. Once clean, have the car re-waxed and re-sealed to restore the protective coatings.
Thaw wash & wax
Finally, when the winter has run its course, the snow starts melting, and the DOT stops salting the roads, give your car one more wash to remove whatever salt you haven’t previously removed. A nice wash and wax will keep your paint and components protected, and have your BMW ready to enjoy the Spring.