Get your vehicle ready for winter
Fall brings vehicles from Soldiers and civilians to the Fort Wainwright Automotive Skill Center as getting ready for winter shifts into gear. Whether it's a first-time experience or a 20-year ritual, the importance of cold-weather maintenance before it gets cold cannot be overlooked.

FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska - This time of year is a great opportunity to take advantage of the outdoors as most of the mosquitoes are gone. It's also a good time to begin trying to figure out where to put all that summer activity paraphernalia and to make room in the garage for vehicles. But with the colder mornings and September on the calendar, winter is just around the corner.

The summer season equipment gets a break for the winter, but the main mode of transportation, be it car, truck or minivan, doesn't get a break. It's time to give that vehicle the attention it deserves before the temperatures drop and the roads get icy.

Living here in the Interior, trusting a vehicle to function during winter as it did in the summer is not an option. Cold, the 50 below kind of cold we will undoubtedly experience, takes its toll on all parts of a vehicle, especially when it's used on a daily basis.

Getting a vehicle ready for winter begins with checking its basic ability to actually start, so checking the condition of the battery is paramount. If the battery wasn't that great of a performer during the summer, it will most likely fail during the winter. Along with having a battery in good condition is the need to keep it protected. Installing a heater (pad or blanket) for warming or a trickle charger to keep the battery charged when plugged in will result in a well-maintained and charged battery that will not freeze.

One of the most important winterization steps, according to Fort Wainwright's Automotive Skills Center, is keeping the engine's various lubricants from freezing by attaching heating pads and block heaters.

At extreme cold temperatures oil tends to take on the viscosity of honey left in a refrigerator. So when starting a 'cold' vehicle, transmission fluids and engine oils are sluggish and thick, settling at the lowest levels of the engine - the transmission and oil pans.

Oil and transmission pans can have silicone heating pads directly attached to them, keeping them warm and fluid for proper circulation. Changing engine oil to a lighter weight will also help in keeping the engine protected.

Block heaters or freeze plug heaters are heating elements that actually stick into the side of the engine. These combined winterization steps keep the engine fluids and lubricants ready to circulate in cold weather, but they do not keep the vehicle's cooling system from freezing.

Interior automobile experts recommend checking antifreeze to ensure it is rated at 50 to 60 below. The antifreeze mix would be 65 percent antifreeze to 35 percent water.

The condition of tires is extremely important, as icy and snow-covered roads will be the norm. Check tire treads for traction and remember, during the winter, tires may need added air because of colder temperatures.

The Fort Wainwright Automotive Skills Center is an excellent source of information and help for winterizing vehicles. Daniel Yamamoto, Automotive Skills Center manager said the center has experienced mechanics to service vehicles that are on hand with advice for those doing self-help winterization projects. All patrons must complete a short safety orientation class which is required before doing any self-help vehicle maintenance in the facility. For more information call the Automotive Skills Center at 353-7436 or visit their website at

Page last updated Fri September 13th, 2013 at 13:13