Winter is when your Toyota most often produce those unexpected problems, but with a careful bit of preparation you can help prevent your vehicle from letting you down at the coldest time of the year, and more often than not, in the worst place, at the worst time!
My following tips should help ease some of that burden. This especially applies if your motor is a little older and not in its mechanical prime, although all cars regardless of their condition should be prepared for winter.
Before the cold and wet really take hold make sure you do some simple maintenance, or if you are unsure about how to do that take your vehicle to a garage and ask them to perform the following tips:
Change your antifreeze at least every two years. Antifreeze costs very little but a new engine costs considerably more; preventing freezing will reduce the possibility of a cracked radiator, or at worst an engine block and the need for expensive replacement. Use quality antifreeze mixed with water, or a pre-mixed coolant, and use an antifreeze tester to make sure the mixture will hold to the lowest temperature possible for your area. At RoughTrax we sell the Genuine Toyota coolant, pre-mixed and good to -36 degrees, should be plenty, we hope!
So why should we change our coolant?
Anti-freeze, also called coolant, is the coloured fluid usually green or red on Toyota's (or should be) found in your radiator. Anti-freeze serves a few purposes, a couple of which many customers may not be aware of;
- The most important and known is keeping the water in your radiator and engine from freezing in cold temperatures, preventing obvious catastrophic and expensive results.
- It also keeps that same water from boiling over in the summer helping for cooler engine running temperatures.
- The third function of anti-freeze, or coolant is lubrication - it lubricates the moving parts it comes in contact with, like the water pump.
Which coolant to use, Red or Green?
To be honest it doesn’t really make a huge difference, the red is recognised as having a longer service life but by Toyota’s own product description the red coolant is sourced from Japanese suppliers and supplied to Japanese and alike destined vehicles where as the Green is sourced from France in the main and used on models destined for the European markets.
So our Surf and pickup Imports would have had Red coolant from factory. But be careful, over the years coolants would have or should have been changed so physically check. Toyota no longer stock Green coolant and have superseded with Red.
The general rule is not to mix red and green coolant together unless specified by the manufacturer. For example Aisin (Blue) can be mixed with any colour. Where colours can't be mixed, make sure that you have removed all traces of old coolant from the system by Flushing the system thoroughly back and forth several times especially if the coolant appears “muddy”. Make sure all the heater controls are set to full heat as well so that you flush the matrixes too.
Removing the thermostat as well will help with the coolant changing operation and gives an ideal opportunity to test your stat. If in doubt always consult your technician.
Windscreen washer fluid is held in a reservoir under the bonnet and is easy to get to, the water may freeze and burst the container, so be sure to use a windscreen washer solvent instead.
Keeping your oil and oil filter changed every 3,000 to 5,000 miles can add years of life to your car. Dirty oil cuts down on gas mileage and causes unnecessary friction on engine parts. Make sure you change the oil filter every time you change the oil. Check the oil level between changes especially on cars with high mileage. If you let the oil get low you could blow your engine and have to pay serious money for a rebuild.
Keep all fluid levels topped up, even the fuel tank, this helps reduce moisture problems in the fuel system.
Check the tread on all your tyres. The legal minimum is 1.6mm although in winter the AA recommends a tread of at least 3mm for sufficient grip in wet weather. The lower the tread, the longer the stopping distance required when wet, so ideally tyres should be replaced well before getting to the absolute minimum, especially if that is just before winter.
Tyre pressures should always be checked regularly anyway, but this time of year makes it all the more important. Pressures can normally be found in your handbooks. On some models RoughTrax has added a PDF technical data file to the model giving our customers some helpful info.
Replace worn pads and shoes and having your brakes professionally inspected ensures immediate response in icy or slippery situations
As well as being able to see, being seen is equally important so check all your bulbs; side lights, headlights, break lights, tail lights and indicators and replace any that do not work. Check all your lights are clean.
Once the cold sets in, cold temperature increases the battery workload and can take a toll, car heaters are turned on and the shorter winter days arrive, this means there is more need for lights to be turned on; all drawing valuable power from the battery. According to the AA, car batteries rarely last longer than five years, so if yours is beyond that age you may wish to consider replacing it.
Ask your local garage to “Drop test” the batteries, this will test the condition of each battery under load and should show any defects in their condition.
Glow plugs are a major cause of poor starting, especially in winter. Have your glow plugs tested or even replace if they are a few years old, one faulty glow plug in winter will prevent your Toyota Hilux starting.
In the cold mornings turn your key for 2 or 3 glow plug cycles, this will really get some heat into the engine and aid initial starting and battery load.
Remember, if your engine won't turn over immediately leave it at least 30 seconds between attempts or that too will quickly deaden the battery.
Ensure that your windscreen wipers are capable of doing the job as clear vision is important, especially in inclement weather. Check your blades for wear and tear, and if necessary replace them. Never switch on frozen wiper blades, broken rubbers is one thing, burnt out wiring or motors is another!
Check all your hoses, particularly heater hoses, these can swell putting excess strain on them when the hot heater water flows through them.
Also heater matrixes are prone to leaking this time of year, once again when hot water starts to flow, weakness are shown, usually in the form of a wet carpet or excessive steaming on the screen. Early tests will help having to replace them in mid-winter (not a nice job at the best of times!)
Never pour hot water onto a cold windscreen, a cracked screen is the last thing you want in the cold. Keep a quality de-icer in your Hilux.
Disclosure Obviously all these comments from myself are for guidance only and if unsure, contact your local technician; however, following these few tips should help your Hilux falling victim to some of the more obvious pitfalls through winter year after year.