We may think our trucks are tough, and they are, but not against the demon of rust. Start winter with a good coat of wax. It makes sense that you prevent rust and corrosion to your truck’s paint finish due to the use of sodium chloride (salt) which has been used for decades in winter to melt snow and ice from our roads and highways. Today’s methods of melting include magnesium and calcium chloride, which is actually worse than common road salt due to the fact that the compounds adhere to metals more stubbornly and resist washing. As long as there is moisture in the air, corrosion continues to work. Even aluminum and other inexpensive metals are subject to corrosion over time.
Ferrous metals can be treated to resist corrosion but should also be protected with asphalt and zinc coatings. Winter residents are not the only ones subjected to potential salt corrosion. If you live near a seacoast, be aware that salty air is also damaging to your vehicle. Drivers should frequently check the lower areas of their trucks throughout the seasons to see if salt spray or salt in the air has caused a problem. Early detection is easier to fix, rather than letting it go until it becomes a major problem costing major dollars to repair. Look for areas of corrosion which can also be the result of joining two different metals, typically steel and aluminum, it can set up destructive electrical activity.
Pay attention to your antifreeze before winter. Antifreeze and water are normally mixed at a 50/50 ratio consisting of half water and half antifreeze, a mix that usually brings your protection level to twenty degrees below zero. If you live in an area where temperatures typically fall below zero, drain a small amount of the mix (like 3-4 oz) from your radiator and replace it with straight antifreeze. Check the protection level and repeat to adjust as needed. Be careful to not add too much antifreeze unless you plan on draining and replacing it in the Spring. Too much can cause cooling problems during hot summer weather.
Checking your trucks’ battery is vitally important when winterizing your pickup. Water should cover the lead plates inside your pickup truck’s battery. If levels are low, add distilled water. Keep in mind though, adding water will dilute the electrolyte solution within the battery, so be sure to recharge it afterwards. Make sure battery cables and terminals are clean and tight.
Inspect all of your tires to insure they have a good tread. Cold temperatures lower tire pressure. Adjust pressure as needed based on the manufacturer’s recommendation. Remember that pressure stats printed on sidewalls indicate the maximum amount of air pressure tires should be inflated with. They are NOT the recommended pressure. Just checking pressure and tread depth is not enough. Use caution not to be fooled by marketing terminology, because all-season tires are not winter tires. Winter tire tread patterns and rubber compounds are designed to work in a wide range of conditions, but all-weathers are not the best choice for winter driving. The tire tread patterns on winter tires are unique, and designed to give good grip on ice and snow when accelerating or stopping, while preventing snow from packing into the tread.
Make sure you use a windshield washer solution that won’t freeze in your winter temperatures. Keep some solution handy and add more weekly since you’ll use your windshield washers more often when traveling on slushy streets and road. You will need clear visibility especially during storms. Replace wiper blades that are more than six months old. If there’s frost, frozen rain, or snow on your windshield, make sure wipers are free before turning them on, otherwise you may end up with torn blades, a blown wiper fuse, or a damaged wiper motor.
Check your owner’s manual for the recommended viscosity of oil that’s appropriate for typical winter temperatures in your area. Regardless of the time of year, you should always stay current on up-to-date oil changes.
During the middle of your first winters’ snow storm is not the time to find out that your 4WD doesn’t work. If your truck has 4WD, check the operation of all components. Make sure items such as locking hubs, the transfer lever, and push button engagement all move freely and actually engage and disengage. Everyone who drives your truck should know how to operate its 4WD system.
Take advantage of a nice warm Indian summer day and give your truck a good inspection checking all the components I have mentioned. Preventative maintenance and being prepared for cold and snowy weather is the best insurance you can give yourself against breakdowns or costly repairs, not to mention being stuck on the highway waiting for help in sub-zero temperatures. Spending an hour now can make all the difference come winter while keeping your pickup purring through the next four months.