Ask A Mechanic: Do I Really Need Winter Tires?

As we get closer to winter (or if you’re like us in Minnesota, where winter has already begun), the talk of winter tires versus all season tires begins. But what’s the real difference, and do you really need to spend a couple hundred dollars on a set of tires you’ll just need to store half of the year?? Read on to find out the real deal from a mechanic who has seen cars come in in February with summer tires on.

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Ask a Mechanic: How to Care for Your Car During Quarantine

While there are numerous articles about how to set up a work from home station, or how to stay productive during a quarantine, one thing that hasn’t been addressed is how your car is dealing with all of this. And would any of you be surprised that I’m concerned about your cars well-being?! If you’re doing your part to flatten the curve by staying home (and if you’re essential and can’t stay home-thank you!!), there’s a good chance that your car isn’t getting driven nearly as much, or maybe not at all.
And while being a car enthusiast may make me qualified enough to give you car care advice, I’m taking it one step further and giving you advice from an actual, qualified mechanic. My boyfriend, Tony, has been a Volkswagen mechanic for over 10 years, and has seen it all! Here are his tips for making sure your car makes it through the quarantine in the best way possible!

  • Wash and wax – Listen, I know even you aren’t showering every day anymore, but you should treat your car to at least one good wash! After it’s been scrubbed clean, put a healthy coat of wax on (and then wax off)! This will help make future dirt, dust, and bird poop less likely to stick and wear down your paint.
  • Fully inflate your tires – While your car is sitting for extended periods of time, you want to be sure your tires are fully inflated. If you aren’t sure what PSI your tires should be at, here’s how to find it: Open your driver door. There should be a sticker on the door jamb with amounts for both your front and rear tires (they will likely be 2 different amounts). You can add 5 PSI when storing as well. Note, there are also PSIs on your tire-don’t fill them by this number!
  • Treat your car to a tank of the good stuff – Believe me, I know how much cheaper 87 is. But think of it as ice cream for your car…it deserves a nice tank of 91 octane while it’s sitting! Higher octane gas burns cleaner and better, it has been more refined, and contains better additives, all of which make it less likely to go bad while it’s not being driven. (Due to technology in fuel systems and quality of gas, you don’t need fuel stabilizer unless you’re storing your car for over a year.)
  • Change your oil – Since you aren’t commuting to and from work each day, you’ll likely need to get oil changes based on time instead of mileage. The majority of modern cars will recommend oil changes every year or 10,000 miles, whichever comes first. If you aren’t driving your car very often, it’s best to get an oil change every six months, or before you drive it again (think road trips or even daily commuting).
  • Drive! – I know this sounds like a very “Lauren” thing to say, but your car wants to be driven! Even if you don’t need to go anywhere, take your car out for at least 30 minutes every week, and let it get up to operating temperature. One situation that Tony sees very frequently is carbon build up in cars that are only driven around town, with owners that never “give it the beans!” You can avoid this by driving your car on a varied route (through town, on the highway and on back roads). When it’s safe to do so (like on an on-ramp to the highway), put the pedal to the floor! You’ll also want to hit the brakes fairly heavily (please make sure there’s no one behind you first). When your car sits, the brakes can accumulate rust and water, and believe it or not, slamming on your brakes occasionally will help your brake pads live longer.

If you have questions about something we didn’t cover, add a note in the comments or find me on Twitter!