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Prepare Your Vehicle for Winter

Getting prepared for Winter driving

Prepare Your Vehicle for Winter

Originally posted Nov. 11, 2016

With the worst of winter right around the corner, now is a good time to get your vehicle prepared for the worst. Being based in northern Wisconsin, we at AMSOIL talk a lot about how synthetic lubricants make life a little easier, as the cold air starts to pierce our engines and lungs.

Wherever you may be, nasty road conditions and winter driving can be dangerous, so it’s always a good idea to plan ahead. Weather.com blogged about how bad-weather car accidents are more deadly in the U.S. than many of the worst storms.

Snow, rain, fog and wet pavement all pose a hazard during the season. To be ahead of the game, here are some preparedness tips:

Garage Time

  • Battery check – Cold temperatures are a battery killer. Be sure you’ve got the juice to keep going. Check the terminals for corrosion that needs cleaning and ensure the alternator and belts are in good shape.
  • Antifreeze and coolant – Look for any radiator and hose leaks and top off the reservoir, if necessary. If it’s been several years since you’ve changed the coolant, be sure to get some fresh fluid in there.
  • Windshield wipers and fluids – Make sure the wipers are working and the blades are not worn. Fill the washer reservoir with a good-quality fluid that doesn’t freeze.
  • Brake system– Being able to stop is crucial when roads are slick. Look to see that the floor mats aren’t blocking the pedal. If you notice braking issues, have the brake fluid, pads, rotors and lines checked.
  • Tire pressure and tread – Tires should be checked monthly for wear and proper inflation regardless of the season. Make sure you have a spare tire, and keep a pressure gauge in the vehicle with you.
  • Fuel and oil level – It’s a good idea to keep your fuel tank at least half-full in case you get stranded on the side of the road and need to stay warm. Motor oil should also be topped off.

Emergency Roadside Kit

  • Flashlight – I like to carry an LED flashlight in my truck since they last a long time. But a traditional flashlight works well and tends to be brighter.
  • Tool kit – It should have the basics, including screwdrivers, pliers, an adjustable wrench and a socket set. Work gloves, tape, fuses and a good pocket knife or multi-tool are all handy to have as well.
  • Blanket – Not only does it keep you warm in winter, but it can also block out wind and help treat shock victims.
  • Jumper cables – It’s best not to settle for chintzy. Good-quality, thick cables with multi-strand wire, heavy duty clips and extra length can save you from headaches. Invest in four-gauge, 20-foot cables that won’t break the bank and will last a long while.
  • Food and water – Keep a stash of high-energy foods such as granola bars and nuts in the car.
  • Fire extinguisher – Often overlooked, but good to have. A multipurpose A-B-C type is the way to go.
  • First-aid kit – Any kit should contain bandages, gauze and prep pads to stop bleeding and prevent infection.
  • Other items to consider – Maps, shovel, broom, ice scraper and flares.

Even if you don’t get any snow, it’s good to be ready for any emergency. Got any more tips to share? Let us know in the comments.

Help Revive a Lawn Mower (and other equipment) that Runs Rough

lawn mower needs AMSOIL or maintenance if not kept up

Help Revive a Lawn Mower (and other equipment) that Runs Rough

Judging someone’s character can be boiled down to this key question: do they love going to the dump?

An affirmative answer indicates a visionary – one who sees a fashionably distressed dining set where others see a worn out table and chairs. One who sees the south wall of their new chicken coop where others see dusty old windows. One who sees his new (free) rolling shop stool where others see a ratty office chair.

Why drop $50 on a shop stool when you can get a sweet unit like this free at the dump?

So, while I salivate at adding a lawnmower, snowblower or other piece of equipment from the dump to my family fleet, I also burn with shame toward my fellow man for discarding something that might have been easily repaired.

There has to be a better way

One of the biggest reasons people junk their lawnmower, string trimmer, chainsaw or other equipment is because it starts hard and runs rough. A dirty carburetor is often to blame.

Over time, oxygen deteriorates the gasoline in the carb, leading to the formation of varnish and other deposits that stick the float, block the screens and plug the tiny fuel passages. The result? Fuel that doesn’t flow properly and an arm nearly ripped from its socket from fruitlessly yanking the starter cord.

Engine deposits are another problem

The combustion chamber grows intensely hot during operation. The heat breaks down motor oil, creating carbon that can lodge in the ring lands and cause the piston rings to stick. Stuck rings reduce engine compression, which makes starting more difficult and reduces engine power.

Gasoline byproducts can form deposits on the piston crown, which can lead to pre-ignition. That’s when a super-heated chunk of carbon ignites the fuel/air mixture before the spark plug fires, causing a shock wave in the cylinder that can lead to piston damage.

In two-stroke engines, deposits can block the exhaust port or spark arrestor screen, choking off airflow and leading to rough-running. If bad enough, the engine will quit running altogether.

String trimmer exhaust port plugged with carbon deposits, causing it to run poorly.

An effective way to prevent hard-starting, rough-running equipment is to treat gas with gasoline stabilizer prior to storage and to periodically clean the carburetor and combustion chamber with a good fuel additive. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself at the dump paying to dispose of your lawnmower, snowblower or other equipment while people like me lie in wait, rubbing our hands together with glee.

If your engine and carburetor are already dirty and causing grief, clean them with AMSOIL Power Foam. It’s a potent cleaning agent that…

  • Cleans deposits from ethanol and degraded fuel
  • Removes gum and varnish
  • Maximizes horsepower
  • Restores startability
  • Helps improve fuel economy
  • Reduces pollution

It will not damage seals, gaskets, rubber or plastic materials commonly used in gasoline engines.

I’ve tried it a few times on my lawn and garden equipment, and it’s pretty simple to use. Just run the engine to normal operating temperature, remove the air filter and spray Power Foam into the intake as fast as possible without stalling the engine. You may have to rev the engine to facilitate the process. Make sure you’re in a well-ventilated area because an impressive volume of smoke will emit from the exhaust.

Then, shut off the engine and let it sit for 10-15 minutes.

While you’re waiting, Power Foam‘s potent formula attacks and loosens the built-up carbon and varnish, helping free stuck rings, clean the valves and piston crown, and remove varnish from the carburetor. If the engine is especially dirty, you may want to repeat the process.

Replace the air filter, start the engine and pat yourself on the back for helping prevent the addition of one more perfectly usable piece of equipment to the local dump.

It may be unfortunate for scavengers like me, but it’s great for your wallet.

And here’s another Sioux Falls secrete for you lawn care customers!! A frequent weedeater problem easy to repair.

What’s the Difference Between DOT 3 and DOT 4 Brake Fluid?

DOMINATOR DOT 4 Synthetic Racing Brake Fluid

What’s the Difference Between DOT 3 and DOT 4 Brake Fluid?

The primary difference between Dot 3 and Dot 4 is their respective boiling points.

I suspect I know your next question.

But first, some background. The U.S. Department of Transportation classifies brake fluid into four main categories:

  • DOT 3
  • DOT 4
  • DOT 5
  • DOT 5.1

Their primary differences are their wet & dry boiling points and their composition.

DOT 3 is the most common type used in cars and trucks today. DOT 4, however, is gaining popularity due to widespread use of anti-lock braking systems and traction control, which benefit from DOT 4 fluid’s lower viscosity.

DOT 4 is compatible with DOT 3, but features a higher boiling point. DOT 5 is silicone, meaning it doesn’t absorb water. It’s not compatible with the other brake fluids and is used mostly in classic cars that remain in storage for long periods and need a brake fluid that doesn’t absorb water. DOT 5.1, meanwhile, is used in high-performance and heavy-duty applications due to its high boiling point.

Bring it to a boiling point

So now we’re back to boiling point. What does it mean? After all, we’re not cooking this stuff.

Well, in the right operating and ambient conditions, you are cooking it.

Aggressive braking can lead to intense heat.

Braking generates intense heat between the brake pads and rotors. Maybe you’ve seen a race on TV where the producers stick a GoPro under the car to show the brakes literally glowing red when the driver depresses the pedal. The intense heat can vaporize the brake fluid, causing it to become compressible, which leads to a spongy feeling when you apply the brakes.

Braking also places the fluid under intense pressure, potentially causing the fluid to boil. That leaves gas in the lines, which is compressible, leading to a soft pedal. In racing and performance-driving circles, this is known as brake fade, and it’s something drivers actively want to avoid. To drive as effectively and safely as possible, the driver must be confident that the brakes will perform on lap 10 as they did on lap one.

Brake fade can also come from the brake pad/rotor interface. The pads release gasses as well, which reduces contact between the pads and rotors. That’s why high-end rotors are slotted and drilled – to release gasses quicker, limiting fade.

Brake fade isn’t just for racers

Brake fade can affect nearly anyone. Descending a steep hill, especially when hauling a heavy load or towing a trailer, can generate tremendous heat if you ride or pump the brakes.

PRO TIP: Next time, downshift into a lower gear before descending a steep incline.

By the time you reach the bottom, your pedal may go nearly to the floor, making your heart rate go nearly through the roof.

If you like to toss your vehicle around a curvy country road for a little therapy, standing on the brakes going into corners can create sufficient heat to cause brake fade, too. If you get a little too zealous, you may end up going right through a corner and into the woods.

The fluid’s boiling point indicates the temperature at which the brake fluid vaporizes. The higher the DOT classification, the higher the boiling point, thus the better the fluid is at resisting heat. That’s why racers use DOT 4, not DOT 3, brake fluid.

Boiling point is separated into dry & wet boiling points

The dry boiling point is determined using fresh fluid straight from a new container. The fluid’s wet boiling point is determined using fluid that’s been contaminated with 3.7 percent water, thus it’s always lower than the dry boiling point. Why would test administrators contaminate good fluid? Because it’s a reflection of what happens in the real world.

Brake fluid is hygroscopic, meaning it absorbs water (except silicone-based DOT 5 brake fluid). DOT 3 fluid, for example, can absorb up to two percent water every year. Moisture can enter the system when you remove the reservoir cap to add fluid, through worn seals and even through the rubber brake lines themselves. Thus the fluid’s wet boiling point is the number that more accurately represents what’s really going on in your vehicle.

Which makes it important to periodically flush the brake system and replace the fluid to remove moisture. Otherwise, not only will your brakes become spongy and unsafe, the moisture will slowly corrode metal components.

A good rule of thumb is to change the brake fluid every other year in passenger vehicles, and at least every year in racing vehicles. The AAA says 88 percent of motorists overlook brake maintenance, so you’re not alone if you haven’t changed brake fluid in awhile, like since you bought your vehicle.

It’s not too late to start, though. And when you do, check out our line of brake fluids for your vehicle. The easiest way to determine the correct brake fluid for you vehicle is to use our Product Guide.

Find AMSOIL Brake Fluid for my Vehicle

Sioux Falls Webmaster note: AMSOIL’s Dot 4 outperforms it’s new 5.1 because the 4 is designed purely as a racing brake fluid where as the 5.1 id the latest for all uses yet still beyond the minimum standard.

New ATV/UTV Oil Change Kits Offer Maximum Convenience

ATV Oil Change Kits

New ATV/UTV Oil Change Kits Offer Maximum Convenience

AMSOIL ATV/UTV Oil Change Kits combine everything needed to perform an oil change on the most popular models of Polaris* ATVs and UTVs in one convenient package, including…

To find the correct ATV/UTV Oil Change Kit for your machine, consult the appropriate Product Guide.

Look up My ATV

Look up My UTV

WHY YOU SHOULD UPGRADE YOUR ATV/UTV PROTECTION

Accessories equal weight. It’s common to burden your UTV or ATV with accessories designed to increase power or productivity, especially for UTV owners. Enthusiasts often add roof and door panels, a winch, a plow, skid plates and other accessories. Plus, how often do you haul a load of gravel or pull a trailer or other implement?

This all adds weight, and a good rule of thumb is that extra weight equals extra heat. Heat, in turn, causes lubricants to break down sooner, which places your engine and differentials at risk of wear.

Heat invites engine wear. The oil’s primary job is to form a protective layer on metal parts to keep them separated so they don’t rub together and wear out. High heat from the stress you place on your machine, however, can cause oils formulated for standard service to become thinner (lose viscosity). Oil that has lost viscosity can fail to develop an oil film of adequate thickness or strength to protect against wear.

Plus, high heat invites sludge and performance-robbing deposits inside the engine. Sludge can clog oil passages and starve the engine of oil, while deposits can cause the piston rings to stick or interfere with proper valve operation, leading to reduced engine compression.

Since compression equals power, over time your engine can make less power, limiting your ability to ride or work as effectively as possible. Eventually, deposits and sludge can wreck the engine completely.

Shift to better performance. The story is similar inside the transmission, differential and front drive. All the extra weight and stress of hard work and performance riding concentrates intense pressure on gears. The lubricant coats the gear teeth during operation, guarding against metal-to-metal contact and wear. The added stress, combined with high heat, can break the fluid film and literally squeeze the lubricant from between the gears, leading to wear. As with the motor oil, high heat causes the lubricant to thin, which negatively affects wear protection.

Upgrade to synthetic lubricants. So what’s the solution? Ride more conservatively? Haul lighter loads and work less?

Never. Upgrade to high-quality AMSOIL synthetic motor oil, differential and transmission fluid, front drive fluid and other lubricants, especially if you’ve modified your ATV or UTV for greater power or productivity. AMSOIL synthetic ATV/UTV lubricants don’t contain the impurities inherent to conventional lubricants, meaning they deliver better performance and last longer. Their naturally tough base oils resist extreme heat and maintain a strong protective film better than conventional products.

Think of synthetics as just another performance upgrade. You don’t think twice about dropping a few hundred dollars on a snowplow or work trailer. Over the course of your machine’s life, the few extra dollars you spend per oil change or transmission/differential service is a drop in the bucket by comparison.

*All trademarked names and images are the property of their respective owners and may be registered marks in some countries. No affiliation or endorsement claim, express or implied, is made by their use. All products advertised here are developed by AMSOIL for use in the applications shown.

Transmission Pan Drop vs. Flush: Which is Better?

Get rid of worn ATF

Transmission Pan Drop vs. Flush: Which is Better?

It depends on what you want to accomplish. But, first of all, check your owner’s manual to see if your vehicle manufacturer recommends one instead of the other.

If you want to ensure removal of nearly all the old transmission fluid, then have your transmission flushed.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

What is a Transmission Flush?

The benefits are self-evident: all the old, dirty fluid is replaced with fresh, high-quality fluid. (And, as you can see in the image, new transmission fluid is preferable to old fluid). As a result, your transmission should run cooler and receive maximum protection against wear to clutches, gears and bearings. It should also shift consistently and crisply since the new fluid will provide the correct frictional properties (old fluid loses its frictional properties over time).

Not only that, but performing a flush helps clean the transmission. Sludge and other contaminants can accumulate in the fluid due to extreme heat breaking down the fluid. These contaminants circulate throughout the transmission before lodging in the filter. Before the filter can safely capture the contaminants, however, they can lodge in the narrow fluid passages inside the valve body, leading to poor shift quality.

The narrow fluid passages in the transmission valve body can easily clog with debris, reducing shift quality.

Performing a flush also allows you to use a flush additive to help clean the transmission and more effectively remove accumulated sludge and other contaminants.

Any downsides?

Potentially.

For one, it’s more expensive. And some people warn against performing a flush on a transmission using old, dirty fluid. The flushing procedure may direct the fluid in the opposite direction of normal flow, which may increase the risk of dislodging debris and causing it to settle somewhere it shouldn’t. Since the way each shop performs a flushing procedure varies, you can’t know for certain.

What is a transmission flushing machine?

A typical flushing machine uses hoses that connect into the transmission cooling lines. It drains the old fluid and holds it inside the machine while replenishing the transmission with new fluid. Unlike a simple pan drop, a flushing machine removes just about all the old fluid, including the fluid inside the torque converter.

Since the procedure uses new fluid to perform the flush, it requires several quarts of new fluid beyond the transmission’s final capacity. Those extra quarts are where most of the added cost lies.

(Find out how an automatic transmission works.)

The good ‘ol pan-drop

If you have reservations about a flush, go with a pan-drop instead. While it reduces the risk associated with flushing old, dirty fluid through the transmission, a pan-drop also has downsides.

  • Removes only about a third of the fluid
  • Can be a mess
  • Can be a pain on some vehicles

I can tell you from experience that a pan-drop can be a bigger job than you think. You may have to remove plastic splash guards or metal skid plates to access the transmission pan. In case you haven’t been under your vehicle in a while, plan on encountering rusted, stuck bolts if you drive in wet, snowy conditions. Don’t be surprised if you crack a splash guard in one or two places as you try to remove/reinstall it.

Tips for performing a pan-drop:

  • Have a large catch pan handy. Otherwise, once you loosen the pan bolts, fluid is going to ooze from the pan/transmission interface and end up all over the floor.
  • If you’re crafty, you can back out the pan bolts in one corner further than the surrounding bolts, effectively tilting the pan so the fluid drains from a single corner instead of overflowing the entire pan. This reduces mess quite a bit.
  • Wear safety glasses and gloves.
  • Don’t forget the new filter and pan gasket.
  • It’s a good idea to know the torque specs on the pan bolts and use a torque wrench to reinstall them. Otherwise you risk overtightening and ruining the gasket.

You might get lucky, though

Some vehicle manufacturers install a drain plug on the transmission, similar to a motor oil drain plug. This allows you to easily and cleanly drain some fluid from the transmission minus the hassle of removing the pan. Again, though, you only get a third to half the fluid out.

You can then drive the vehicle for a while, then drain the fluid and change it again. Do this 2-3 times and you’ll remove nearly all the old fluid and perform a sort of poor-man’s transmission fluid flush.

Bottom line: Visit a pro and have the transmission flushed for best results and least hassle (unless your vehicle manufacturer specifically warns against it in the owner’s manual). But, if you have reservations about dislodging debris due to old, dirty fluid, a series of pan drops works just as well.

FIND AMSOIL TRANSMISSION FLUID FOR MY VEHICLE