How to Prepare Your Car's HVAC for Winter

How to Prepare Your Car's HVAC for Winter

Mother Nature dishes out all kinds of challenges for Canadian drivers during the winter months. While there isn't much you can do about the cold temps, there are a few things you can do to get your car's HVAC system ready for the cold Canadian winter.



Test the System

Test the system in the early fall, before winter strikes. Turn the air conditioning all the way down and be sure that it's blowing ice cold. You probably won't need the AC for comfort during the winter but, you will need it to keep your vehicle's windows defogged. Next, turn the heat all the way up. You will want warmth, and lots of it, blowing through your car's vents in the coming months. Overall, warning signs of a malfunctioning HVAC system include unusual noises or little or no airflow or coming from the vents or inability to properly adjust the cabin temperature. You may also have trouble defogging or defrosting the windshield, side mirrors, and side driver and passenger windows. You might be surprised to learn that problems with your car's HVAC system could also lead to overheating, even on the coldest winter days.


Replace The Cabin Air Filter

Most modern vehicles come equipped with a cabin air filter. Typically, it will be located behind the glove box and easy enough to swap out. Your owner's manual should have further details. But if not, usually, an internet search will turn up at least a few hits, ranging from step by step instructions to detailed YouTube videos on how to proceed. Many automakers now post instructional videos on their websites, and YouTube, as well.


Check Your Coolant

Check your vehicle's coolant level, as well as its colour and consistency. Many car makers nowadays recommend leaving factory coolant in the system for as long as 15 years or three-hundred thousand Kilometres, whichever comes first. But, that doesn't mean that you shouldn't, or can't, change it prior to the manufacturer's recommended schedule. Extreme heat and cold will cause coolant to deteriorate faster. City driving also puts more stress on your HVAC system than highway driving, especially if your commute involves sitting in traffic for long periods.


There are several simple methods used to test the state of your car's antifreeze. Most auto parts retailers carry inexpensive kits consisting of test strips and a hydrometer. The test strips measure for acidity and the kit should have instructions on what levels of acidity are acceptable, and what are not. The hydrometer measures the coolants boiling and freezing protection. If you don't have access to a test kit, a visual inspection of your coolant often works just as well. An orange colour (for Dexcool), or s bright green color (for ethylene glycol), usually suggests all's well. Rusty colored antifreeze (usually found on older vehicles) should be changed right away, while milky colored coolant indicates the possible presence of oil in the system, a severe problem.

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