Winterizing Your Mustang

Members of that exclusive club known as the ‘Stang Gang are well aware of the capabilities (and indeed the limitations) of this legendary vehicle. A mustang has a timeless beauty that puts other muscle cars to shame and has attracted a loving and devoted fanbase since its inception in 1964. Even for its time its look was distinctive, with it’s extravagant curves and ostentatious fins, and it wasn’t long before her looks made her a movie star with notable appearances in Goldfinger (1964) and Bullitt (1968). Distinctive good looks aside, however, it was the versatility that has kept customers coming back to Ford time and again over the years. There really is a stang to suit all tastes. Those who like to drive with the top down have the Mustang Convertible, those that want to be seen with a mustang can opt for the charming but surprisingly affordable and insurable V-6. If you’re looking for raw power at a price that won’t break the bank, look no further than the Mustang GT. If you want to race, check out the eye poppingly muscular Cobra Jet. The ‘stang’s popularity has led to a whole subculture of serious collectors and enthusiasts (including former President Bill Clinton).

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One thing that all these people will tell you, however, is that the Mustang needs a little TLC to deliver on the road when winter comes. Even the most ardent Mustang fan will tell you that drivers should exercise caution when taking these beauties out on snow covered or icy roads. Those powerful 310 HP rear wheels are notorious for spinning out and come with the same caveats as most rear wheel driving vehicles when the cold weather comes. While Mustangs may not be ideal on winter roads they’re certainly manageable so long as you carry out one or two winter safety checks

Put a little weight on

We’re not telling you to gorge on cheeseburgers (although the cold weather has a weird way of activating the hibernation instinct in the best of us), we’re telling you to make sure your Mustang is carrying a little extra weight when you take it out on winter roads. Loading up the trunk will help those rear wheels get the traction they need on slippery surfaces. That’s why you’ll see many Mustang drivers loading a 100lb bag of sand into the trunk around this time of year. Even with a fully loaded trunk, it’s a good idea to tread carefully on the gas to avoid those rear wheels spinning out.

Change your oil

Regardless of your car’s age you should be changing your oil and oil filter every 12 months or 10,000 miles whichever comes first. If it’s been a long while since you’ve done this, however, now’s the time before the cold gets really bad! Burning dirty oil is never a great idea but a lot of the problems that come with running on bad oil are exacerbated by cold weather and harsh driving conditions. Dirty oil leads to clogs which can impede the lubrication of essential parts leading to metal on metal friction that can lead to a whole range of things that you really don’t want to happen on a long snowy road. If you’re unsure, or don’t have a logbook for your vehicle, keep an eye out for telltale signs like a loud or erratic engine or a strong smell of exhaust fumes in the cabin.

Inspect the battery

It always seems that car batteries only die in the winter. The truth is that the death of car batteries has little to do with the cold itself. In fact, while the cold has some negligible effect on the performance of lead acid batteries, hot summer weather is actually far more potentially damaging. Extremes of temperature aren’t great for batteries, and that includes the tremendous heat that’s generated when your engine’s working overtime on slippery or icy roads. Whatever the cause, there are few things less convenient on a flat battery on a freezing cold snowy morning. Therefore, get down to your local repair shop for a battery test (you may need to leave your vehicle with them overnight) for your peace of mind if nothing else. If your battery is older than 3-4 years it might be worth replacing just to be on the safe side as this is when they begin to show issues. Ensure that the cable connectors are accessible and free of contaminants and that you always carry a set of jumper cables.

Check those brakes

Worn brakes are extremely dangerous even on the best of roads, but icy roads can multiply stopping distances as much as tenfold. If it’s been more than 2 years since you had your brakes changed, it’s vitally important to change them or at least get them checked before taking to wintry roads. Brakes take time to wear down and we’re often so accustomed to our vehicles that we can become oblivious to just how spongy and unresponsive they are. Worn brakes can not only impair stopping power but also lead to greater risk of veering and fishtailing that can lead to potential motorcycle accidents, kerb mounting or (Heaven forbid) collisions with other vehicles or pedestrians. The cost of replacement brakes is paltry compared to the cost of hitting the road with substandard brakes in winter.

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Guard against freezing

Now’s also the time to thoroughly check your cooling system, inspecting all pipes and hoses. It may also be worth getting your coolant system flushed. Ensure that at the very least your coolant pump is filled with a 50/50 solution of antifreeze and water. You should also ensure that your windscreen washer fluid contains an antifreeze agent and that your hoses are inspected to avoid risking blowing a fuse by trying to pump out frozen water.

And finally, your exhaust

If you’ll be taking long journeys over the holidays with your family, it’s imperative that you check your exhaust and clamps for signs of corrosion or detachment. An exhaust leak could allow deadly carbon monoxide into your cabin.