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Winter Driving Tips

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Winter is upon us again here in Chicago and winter driving presents challenges to you and your car. Cold weather tests the limits of your car’s mechanical condition, while driving on snowy or icy roads tests your abilities and awareness as a driver. Here are some tips to help you prepare.

Mechanical Preparations:

In general, if your car is due (or overdue) for basic maintenance, do it now before the weather gets really bad. Worn belts and hoses, old spark plugs and dirty coolant are just some of the maintenance items that will get taxed when the weather gets cold. Any of these items can lead to failures and leave you stranded. Being stranded in the winter when it is 10 degrees outside is much different than in the summer when it is 70. Bring your car into Midwest Performance Cars for a free inspection, and we will let you know if your vehicle is ready for the cold weather ahead.

Some specific items to be aware of include:

Snow-tires

Tires – Make sure your tires are in good shape. If you have performance tires on your car, you need to get snow tires for the winter. Performance tires will provide almost no traction in even a dusting of snow or on any ice. Midwest Performance Cars can help you get snow tires and arrange storage for your off-season set. Many of our clients use all-season tires and thus have only one set year-round. If this is the case, make sure your tires have plenty of tread – worn tires will provide almost no traction. Finally, check your tire pressures. Tire pressures drop by approximately one pound for every 10 degrees. If you last checked in August, your tires are likely under-inflated.

 

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Brakes – Having your braking system in good working order is always important, but in the winter you might need all the stopping power you can get. Make sure your pads have plenty of thickness. If you have a brake related warning light, such as the ABS light or ESC (electronic skid control), make sure you have it checked out before you really need it.

 

 

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Battery and Charging System – Check your battery, charging system and belts. In winter, your car needs more power to start as the oil is thicker in the cold and thus the engine needs more force to turn it over. Also, batteries lose power as the temperature drops. If your battery is older than four years, it may let you down. Your battery may be ok, but if your charging system is not charging it correctly this can leave you stranded as well. Midwest Performance Cars can perform a complete check of your battery, alternator, and starter to make sure you are ready for the cold.

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Cooling System – Many people think that a car is not likely to overheat in the cold, however this is incorrect. The cold outside air will not dissipate the heat from the engine. Having the correct coolant in your engine (many marques now use a specific type – it’s not all green any longer), with the correct mix of coolant to water, is vital to keeping your engine running cool. Do not use unmixed, or straight coolant, as it is designed to be mixed with water and has a lower freezing point when properly mixed. Good coolant is also vital in the very cold, as if your coolant freezes it will expand in your engine block and can crack it – that is expensive! Finally, the coolant circulating through your engine block also travels through your heater core which creates the heat in your car. This not only keeps you warm but keeps the defroster working properly. Midwest Performance Cars can check your entire cooling system including coolant, radiator, hoses, fans, and thermostat. We will also check your rear window defroster to make sure it is working properly.

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Windshield Wipers & Fluid – Make sure your wipers are in good shape and you keep your wiper fluid reservoir full. It is amazing how easy it is to use up a gallon of wiper fluid in one trip home on a messy, snowy day. Always use good wiper fluid (never water) so it does not freeze in your system and damage your pump, lines, and reservoir.

 

 

Driving Tips:

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Keep your gas tank over half full – In the summer, if you see your gas gauge getting low, you can take a risk and bet that you will find a gas station. In the winter, however, this can leave you out in the cold – literally. Besides, if you get stuck or caught in a storm, your running engine is your only source of heat.

 

 


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Have some basic supplies in your car – Have a good snow-brush and ice scraper, small shovel, blanket, warm boots, flashlight, and cell phone charger. A bag of sand is helpful if you get stuck and also provides some weight in the back for front engine, rear wheel drive vehicles. These items might seem silly in the metro Chicago area – but if you travel at all, these items can be really handy in a storm.

 

 

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Clean your car off completely including the headlights – Clean off all the windows, not just a little peephole in the windshield. In poor conditions, you need as much visibility as you can get in order to see pedestrians and other vehicles on the road – particularly the knuckleheads who cannot see you because they are peering out of a little peephole. Now clean off the rest of the car – why? – because the snow and ice that are there now will either slide off your roof onto your windshield, or fly off and land on someone else’s windshield that you are sharing the road with. Finally, even if it is daylight, take the time to clean your headlights. You will not remember once it gets dark and your headlight’s effectiveness goes way down when they are covered in snow/ice/dirt.

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Know your car – Every car has different handling characteristics. You should understand what your car can and cannot do in the snow and how it feels. If you bought a new car, new tires, or have not driven your vehicle in the snow – go to an empty parking lot day (preferably without curbs or poles) on a snowy day and drive around a little. It is a great learning experience and a bit of fun too if you like to act a little juvenile now and again.

 

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When driving in the snow, do everything slowly – Even with practice, a cleaned off car, snow tires, and a perfectly working car with ABS and skid control; driving in the ice and snow is treacherous. Even if you maintain control of your car, not everyone else will. (Ever wonder if those guys in 4X4’s that go flying by you realize that they can’t stop any better than anyone else?) In the snow or ice, do everything slowly and gently – acceleration, turning, stopping – all slow and gentle. Keep plenty of distance between you and the other cars. Expect the other drivers to do something stupid. Remember driver’s education in high school? They were always talking about Defensive Driving. Drive defensively in lousy conditions and you can avoid a lot of trouble.

Midwest Performance Cars is happy to look over your car and tell you what might need attention in the colder weather. Give us a call at (312) 432-9492 or use our online scheduler at

Spring Car Care Tips

Spring-Driving

You and your car have survived the Chicago Winter and we should be all finished with any real snow and ice. Now is the right time to bring your vehicle in for a Spring Service. Winter is very hard on many components of your car and some wear or damage to important components may have occurred. If your car has been safely stored away for the winter, it is a good idea to have it gone through before the fun driving season begins.

It goes without saying that spring and summer are very different environments in which your car must operate in than winter is. While generally easier on the equipment, each season does present its own set of challenges. Spring brings a lot of rain and wet driving conditions. This stresses electrical components, tires and drains among other systems. Contact Midwest Performance Cars today to schedule an appointment for your Spring Maintenance. Below are a few of the things we will check for spring as well as a few recommendations:

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Spring Service Package – There are a few high quality additives that we recommend periodically adding to your oil and fuel systems in order to remove contaminants and to reduce wear. We have bundled three of the best into a Spring Service Package. All three products come from the highly respected German company Liqui Molly. “Engine Flush” is added to the engine and run for a few minutes just prior to an oil change – this removes contaminants from the oil circuit. After the oil change, we recommend “Cera Tec” which adds a ceramic coating to the metal and reduces both wear and friction. This service should be completed every 30,000 miles. Finally we recommend “Jectron” to keep the fuel injection systems clean. With our Spring Service Special we combine these three great services into a package at a considerably reduced price.

 

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Battery – Winter is hard on your starting system components – battery, alternator and starter. The cold puts a high load on this system in order to turn over your motor filled with cold, thick oil. MPC will check this system to make sure it is still on good order. Signs that your battery is failing include hard starting, warning lights, dimming headlights and interior lights, and slow power windows.

 

 

brake rotor

Brakes – Salt, slush and ice get packed into your wheels and brakes during the winter. This can corrode your brake components – pads, rotors, brake lines, and ABS systems. Signs that your brakes need attention include pulling to one side, warning lights, a soft brake pedal, and squealing or grinding noise upon application.

 

 

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Tires – Those of you that have one set of tires for all year should have them checked out in the Spring. Spinning your wheels on ice trying to get out of your parking spot, alley, or garage can do a lot of damage to your tires. See this terrific article from Car Talk: Car Talk on Winter Tire Damage. Further, hitting potholes (hard not to do in Chicago Winters) can cause sidewall bulges or cracked/broken wheels. Either of these is unsafe and should be replaced immediately. We will check your tires for dry-rot – rubber cracks as it ages and old (5 years or more) tires will start to dry out and crack from the inside out. Finally, MPC will set your tire pressures. Tire pressures will change as the temperature outside changes so you should always have your pressures checked in the spring.

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Belts and Hoses – The cold and salt will also age rubber parts in your engine such as belts and hoses. As the rubber ages, belts will start to peel and crack and hoses will get soft. Blowing a hose in your cooling system will cause your car to overheat and you will need a tow. Similarly, a broken belt can cause many issues from a loss of power steering to overheating. Midwest Performance Cars will check your belts and hoses to make sure you are ready to enjoy spring driving.

 

 

 

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Spark Plug Wires & Coils – Both rubber spark plug wires and plastic coils will crack with age and heat. Often in the rainy spring weather, the humidity in the air will cause these cracks to develop into shorts which will result in misfires, hard starts or no starts.

 

 

 

 

 

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Drains – This is an important maintenance item that is overlooked by many shops and dealerships. Most vehicles have drains in the front cowling, doors, and sunroofs. These can get blocked up with leaves and other debris. When the drains are plugged up, water will often back up into the cabin on the floors and/or into the dash. These areas usually are full of electronic control modules that get damaged with water intrusion. We too often see vehicles with damaged, expensive control modules and moldy wet carpeting caused by something as simple as plugged drains.

 

 

oxygen sensor

Oxygen Sensors – These are one of the most common causes for a Check Engine Light to come on. There are often multiple oxygen sensors in today’s European cars, but they all work the same way. The oxygen sensor measures the unburnt oxygen in the exhaust stream and allows the vehicle’s fuel management to add or reduce fuel flow in order to maintain the perfect mixture. If your oxygen sensor(s) malfunction, the fuel management will often provide too much gas (rich mixture) and can reduce your mileage by up to 40% according to the auto repair website, CarMD. Running too rich can also damage your catalytic converter which is an expensive component of your vehicle. Oxygen sensors typically need replacing every 30,000 to 50,000 miles.

 

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Fluids – It is always important to check all your fluids to make sure they are topped up and fresh.

 

 

 

 

 

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A/C System – It is a good idea to check out your A/C system before you really need it. The cold of the winter can shrink seals and cause your Freon to leak out. Turn your A/C on to max and see if it is working. If it is not, give Midwest Performance Cars a call to schedule an appointment.

 

 

 

 

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Suspension & Alignment – If you drive in Chicago in the winter, you are going to hit potholes – we all have to pretty much accept that. However, potholes are very hard on your car’s shocks, struts, bushings and alignment. At MPC we will thoroughly check your suspension and make sure no damage occurred during “pothole season”.

 

 

 

 

 

clean cabin filter versus dirty cabin filter

Cabin Filter – The cabin filter removes contaminants from the air inside the passenger cabin. If the filter is blocked or dirty, irritants such as dust and pollen can circulate in your cabin. This is particularly troublesome if you or anyone in your family suffers from allergies. Midwest Performance Cars will check your cabin filter every time your car is in for service.

 

 

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Wiper Blades – Winter often destroys wiper blades, we will check them out for you.

 

 

 

simon's shine shop for detailing needs

Car/Undercarriage Wash – Removing all the salt and road debris that accumulated on your vehicle over the winter is an important maintenance task. Underneath your car, the salt and muck causes the components to rust. On the top, washing the car thoroughly and even treating your car to a good wax job will prolong the life of your paint. Midwest Performance Cars will wash your car with each service, however we recommend going to your favorite detail shop for a wax and undercarriage wash. We recommend Simon’s Shine Shop in Lincoln Park at 1439 W. Shakespeare, (773) 348-2000.