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Avoid the tow this Wonder Lake winter – have your charging/starting system checked

charging system Wonder lake tow truck
Check your charging system now and you won't have to wait
for a tow truck to come out to Wonder Lake and get you
if it fails this winter.
There is a good reason you can count on your car to start throughout the Wonder Lake winter that is swiftly approaching. You have an integrated charging/starting system under your hood with parts and mechanisms that work together to ensure your car will start when you want it to. There is one primary reason that system might fail you sometime this winter.

The system generally fails because someone has attended to the charging/starting system as diligently as they should have. We all know that winter rolls around in Wonder Lake this time of year. Due diligence means that you’ll have your charging/starting system checked before the worst of winter arrives. But, some of us put it off. Some even neglect to check their charging/starting system altogether.

If you go out and start the car today, the car starts. So, what’s the problem? Better to ask ‘What could possibly go wrong?’ The answer is plenty, and you really could find yourself stranded on a Wonder Lake road, or worse, a road some distance out of town.

The charging/starting system under your hood includes wires of different gauges. It includes switches, relays, fusible links, regulators, and stators. These parts connect and control the main ingredients of your charging/starting system.

The major parts of the charging/starting system on your car are the battery, the alternator, and the starter. In most cars, the charging/starting system also depends on belts to drive a pulley on the front of the alternator thereby creating the electricity that runs and the car and charges the battery.

The unfortunate truth is that the parts of a charging/starting system can break or wear out. Your battery has a pre-determined life expectancy. That doesn’t mean the battery will wear out and stop working at 11:32, and 12 seconds, on December 29, 2017. Rather, the life expectancy of your battery is a general rule. When the time approaches your confidence in the battery should wain.

Starters and alternators also wear out, as do pulley belts. When their time is up, their time is up. If their time is up when they’re still in your car, you could find yourself calling for a tow.

The way to avoid a tow brought on by a failure in the charging/starting system is to have your car checked out before that happens. A qualified auto repair shop in the Wonder Lake area can check your car and tell you if the parts of your charging/starting system all have plenty of life in them or if one part or another is liable to let you down … on a cold and barren Wonder Lake road in the middle of winter.

Coolant/antifreeze – effective at both ends of the spectrum, but as long as hoses hold

Yes, your radiator can overheat in the middle of winter. Coolant is also antifreeze and both work in unison to keep
your car on the road, rather than the side of the road, while depending on your radiator hoses.

The coolant/antifreeze that flows through the veins and arteries of your car’s engine and radiator are essential to the vitality, endurance and efficient operation of your car. As a coolant, it carries away heat caused by friction between moving engine parts. As antifreeze, it avoids the risk of freezing so it can’t flow when you start the car.

It’s amazing that something as vital as coolant/antifreeze depends on something so simple as rubber hoses to transfer the coolant/antifreeze from engine block to radiator, as well as the heater core.

If, in its coolant function, it was not able to literally take the heat, your coolant/antifreeze would let your car down. At the minimum, your car will overheat. Far worse is the possibility that you could do serious damage to your engine. If, in its antifreeze role, it froze at low temperatures, your coolant/antifreeze would also let your car down.

What if you don’t have enough coolant/antifreeze in your car? Coolant that isn’t there can’t carry heat away. Once again, overheating, or worse, are likely outcomes. Even if you have enough coolant/antifreeze but a hose springs a leak, you won’t have enough coolant/antifreeze for long.

So, those simple rubber hoses play an essential role in the operation of your car. In the summer and winter, they keep your car from overheating. In the winter, when the car isn’t running, the keep the coolant from freezing.

The symbiotic relationship of coolant, that is also an antifreeze, means that one liquid can operate effectively on both ends of the spectrum. But, it can’t do any of that if the rubber hoses don’t maintain their sealed integrity.

The problem is that, if you don’t check your hoses, you’ll never know they’re about to lose that integrity until they do. You’ll find out you had a bad hose at the worst time – when you’re driving somewhere and, possibly, when it’s dangerously cold outside. The key is simple – inspect your hoses, or have them checked.

Thermostats are vital to proper operation of cooling system and your car’s engine

They can also make your car more comfortable

automotive thermostat coolant
This thermostat is a little rusty. It may not work the way
it was designed to work. You may want to have your
thermostat checked, too.
In recent weeks, this blog has focused on coolant/antifreeze, freeze plugs and radiator hoses – all integral parts of a car’s cooling system. There is another part of the cooling system that plays a vital role in its efficient operation that we have not discussed – the thermostat.

In your home, you have a thermostat on the wall that you can adjust to operate your furnace so the house stays at a desired temperature. The thermostat in the house is an apparatus that often leads to battles between husbands and wives. Some like it hotter, some like it cooler and never the twain shall meet.

Your car’s thermostat also adjusts the temperature. But, once it’s installed, there are no adjustments to make and nothing for a husband and wife to argue about.

A car’s thermostat operates a valve that opens and closes. Closed, it blocks the flow of cooled coolant out of the radiator and into the engine. Why would you want to stop the flow of coolant into the engine, especially considering all we’ve discussed the last few weeks about the importance of coolant in the smooth and reliable operation of your car’s engine?

Without a thermostat, a car’s coolant would flow always and unimpeded into the engine block and back into the radiator, constantly removing heat. But, engines are designed to operate best at optimal temperatures. When the thermostat closes the valve, the coolant is trapped inside the engine block until it reaches optimal operating temperature. Then, the thermostat opens.

When the cooling process causes the temperature of the coolant to reach a predetermined low point, based on the thermostat that is installed in the car, the thermostat shuts the valve again. In this way, it keeps the engine operating within a preferred range of temperatures.

By keeping the thermostat closed at lower temperatures, the thermostat also makes warmer coolant available to flow through the heater core. The heater core is like a small radiator that provides heat for the inside of the car’s cabin. In other words, it provides heat for you when you’re shivering inside the car waiting for the engine to heat up sufficiently.

Many thermostats open at 200-degrees Fahrenheit while others may open at 180 degrees. Some might say that the latter is more of a summer thermostat. The thermostat that doesn’t open until the coolant reaches 200 degrees is better for winter. Of course, it really comes down to the temperature where a car runs best.

A real problem with a thermostat occurs when the thermostat locks into place. Whether stuck open or closed, it’s a problem that will bring you to your auto repair shop or the side of the road. Over time, thermostats fail. You may want to consider replacing the thermostat after a few years rather than waiting for it to fail.

What is a freeze plug and why should you care?

freeze plug leaks
See the corrosion around the silver freeze plug and the
green antifreeze leaking? This freeze plug may have
done its job and saved this engine, hopefully.

You probably don’t think about them. You may never have heard of them. But, you can better your car’s warranty its engine has freeze plugs.

Freeze plugs are one of those things you hope never to use since you’ll only use them in a desperate situation. In particular, a freeze plug is used when the antifreeze does what it’s designed not to do – it freezes. And it all comes down to the power of water.

Water carves rivers. Blown up into a typhoon, water can swamp even the biggest ship. Water is sometimes used in manufacturing to cut heavy-gauge steel. Water is powerful. It’s also powerful when it freezes.

This is why we use antifreeze in our cars. Antifreeze is designed to remain in its liquid state even when the temperature outside is precipitously cold. For one thing, with frozen antifreeze, you may have trouble getting the car to start. But, even worse, if the antifreeze in your car’s engine does freeze it’s going to press at its walls.

Have you ever seen what happens when a gallon of milk freezes? The sides of the plastic container bulges out and it usually erupts out of the top. The cap at the top is the weak spot when a gallon of milk freezes. It pops off before the frozen milk cracks the side of the container, though this may still happen.

A freeze plug is a designed weak spot. It’s the cap on a gallon of milk designed to pop out if things start to freeze up inside the engine. In this way, hopefully, the freezing antifreeze won’t crack your engine block.

While a plastic milk jug is beyond inexpensive, an engine block is on the other end of that spectrum. In some cases, a mechanic may be able to weld an engine block. But, often, this is not possible or practicable. The only real solution is to purchase a new engine block. In fact, it may be easiest just to replace the engine in general.

Replacing a cracked engine block is a financial experience that pinches a wallet hard. So, we count on those freeze plugs to pop and reduce the pressure that may crack the engine block. At the same time, it’s also important to make sure your antifreeze is up to snuff. Good antifreeze shouldn’t freeze until a minimum temperature of minus-36-degrees Fahrenheit.

If you have good antifreeze you have less chance that you’ll have to rely on your freeze plugs to save your engine.

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