Your Evo hasn't missed a beat all through the summer, so why worry about winter? It's tempting to think that you can get away without any kind of preparation at all, but a few minutes spent on some simple checks might easily pay dividends. The dark, cold, wet days of winter put far more stress on any car, so it makes sense to ensure your Evo is up to scratch before the real winter weather sets in.
So what needs doing, and how do you tackle it? To find out we went to Xtreme Automobiles, where expert Evo technician IanTromans showed us the process and gave us some insider’s hints and tips. The good news is that most of our ten top tips are easy to do at home and need only basic tools. So before the coldest winter weather sets in get out there give your Evo the once-over.
Step 1: Check the antifreeze
Antifreeze is the obvious winter accessory, though with the variety of metals used in modern engines it should really be a standard feature throughout the year. Antifreeze includes corrosion inhibitors which prevent fatal corrosion in engines with alloy cylinder heads and water pump internals, so it makes sense all year round. That said, it’s most important during the winter so it makes sense to check that the concentration of antifreeze in the system is up to scratch.
The professionals do that by removing a tiny amount of coolant mixture using a pipette and applying it to an optical refractometer. Held to the light this tool gives an instant assessment of the mixture strength of antifreeze (or battery acid, or even screenwash). Most people don’t have a refractometer, so there are two alternative choices: either get yourself a bulb-type antifreeze tester for £10 or less from an accessory shop and check your antifreeze concentration that way, or go the whole hog and simply renew the coolant and the antifreeze it contains every year (not a bad idea).
Step 2: Top up with screenwash
Water in the windscreen washer bottle can freeze and split the bottle in cold weather, and water in the washer nozzles and pipework is even more likely to freeze due to its more exposed location. That will not help when you are trying to clear the screen on the coldest days. To avoid problems add a screenwash additive to the system to prevent freezing, at the same time adding some real cleaning power to the washers.
Step 3: Aim the washer jets
No use keeping the washers in good order if the jets aim the water over the roof or off to one side. Use a strong, but narrow tool – a fat needle is ideal – to align the jets until the spray of water lands approximately half way up the screen.
Step 4: Check the wipers
Pull each wiper arm away from the screen and run your thumb down the rubber. Look for cracks and splits – anything bad here means your wipers are unlikely to last the winter, and need changing. If the wipers are sound but feel gritty, clean them with a spot of neat screenwash on a clean rag or paper towel.
If your wipers need changing, a good option to go for are the PIAA silicone wiper blades fitted to the latest Evos. The silicone rubber leaves a coating on the windscreen which causes water to bead, so you need the wipers less often – and when you do, the water clears more easily.
Step 5: Freeze-proof the intercooler spray
The water spray system designed for extra cooling of the intercooler in hot conditions needs a little extra care in cold conditions. Just like cooling water or windscreen washer water, the intercooler system can freeze up when the weather turns icy. To avoid damage and failure, add a little windscreen washer fluid to the system in the winter months. The fluid will not affect the operation of the system, but it will lower the freezing point of the fluid enough to avoid ice forming in the tank and the pipework.
Step 6: Top up the battery
In cold weather the battery struggles to deliver as much current as it can under normal conditions, and because equipment like the lights, wipers, heated rear window and heater fan are used far more often it’s likely that the battery is worked harder. So for easy starting in the winter months it makes sense to start with a battery in the best possible condition. To ensure that, there are two simple checks you can make.
On many batteries the level of acid inside each individual cell can be visually checked by removing the filler cap. Clean around the cap with a rag to avoid any detritus dropping into the battery, then remove the cap and look inside. The liquid level should be at or slightly above the top of the grey metal plates inside the battery. If the level is low it should be topped up with water – ideally you should use ‘deionised’ water obtainable from Halfords or car accessory shops, but a reasonable alternative is to use boiled water from a kettle, once it has cooled to room temperature.
Step 7: Test the battery
The second battery check you can make is to determine its performance. Ideally you’d use a battery tester like Ian has in our pictures, but a simple voltmeter will do. Connect the tester to each of the battery terminals, and if necessary select a voltage range which shows 12 volts or more (on a voltmeter or multimeter, you might need to select a 20 volt or 25 volt setting). A good battery should deliver around 12 volts with everything switched off, and 14-15 volts when the engine is running (indicating that the alternator is charging the battery). A battery tester like Ian’s shows exactly the same information, but makes interpreting the results easier using coloured segments on the dial.
Step 8: Check tyre tread depth
Winter driving is all about bad weather, and that means you need tyres in top condition. A tread depth gauge will give you an accurate measurement of just how much tread is left, but If you don’t have one rest a 1p coin in one of the grooves. The tread blocks should at least reach the bottom of the ‘1’ on the back of the coin if they’re to exceed the minimum legal requirement of 1.6mm. Even this isn’t really enough for safety on a wet road – 2mm or more gives you a far greater margin of safety. A new tyre will have 5mm or more of tread depth.
Step 9: Check tyre pressures
While you’re looking at the tyres it makes sense to check the pressures all round. Garage pressure gauges are much more accurate than they used to be, but it’s still wise not to rely on them – a cheap hand-held gauge, either the old mechanical type or a more modern digital gauge – will give you a reliable reading. Remember to check pressures with the tyres cold, and if you’re running bigger than standard tyres you will probably need pressures which are slightly lower than standard.
Step 10: Workshop checks
Well, we did say you could do ‘almost’ all of these checks yourself. Given a well-equipped workshop like Xtreme’s, there are several other useful checks you can do.
Given that the battery works harder in winter, it’s a good idea to ensure that the charging system is in good nick. On the Evo the alternator belt tension is automatically controlled, but the adjuster only has a certain amount of movement – so it’s important to check the it hasn’t reached the end of its travel and is allowing the belt to go slack (eventually giving you a flat battery). Unfortunately it isn’t easy to check the tensioner without raising the car on a ramp, but technician Ian Tromans showed us what to look for: the circular silver component is the adjuster, and the rectangular ‘tooth’ on the end should be in the middle of its travel. If it’s close to the end, the adjuster is running out of travel – which means either manual adjustment or replacement of the belt is necessary.
Judging the belt condition is also much easier from under the car. The belt is a multi-vee profile, and it’s the series of v-shaped grooves on the inside which does the work. Any sign of cracking or distortion to the grooved profile should prompt a change of belt.
Ian also suggests checking the brake pad thickness – which he does using a torch and an adjustable mirror, which is quicker than taking the wheels off. Another good check, if you have a micrometer or vernier calipers, is to measure the thickness of the disc. On this Evo VIII the minimum acceptable thickness was 29.8mm – but Ian says he has seen discs worn to a dangerous 25mm before they were replaced!
Finally, a good specialist like Xtreme will hook up your Evo to a PC-based diagnostic system to run tests on the on-board electronics. Evos are strong, and there’s nothing in particular that likes to go wrong – but while the car is in for workshop attention, it makes sense to check every system. The diagnostics are simple and easy, and will quickly alert the technicians to problems.
Thanks to technician Ian Tromans at Xtreme Automobiles
Published in Total Evo magazine 2007
Note: Xtreme ceased trading in 2013