Is your Alfa ready for Winter? A new owner tutorial - Alfa Romeo Forum
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Is your Alfa ready for Winter? A new owner tutorial

This is one for the owners who are quite new to Alfa's and as a consequence will be going through their first winter with their Bella's.

Most of it is common sense but even so, we can all could do with a quick recap to prevent many issues rearing their ugly heads.
Please feel free to add titbits and extra information guys

Here we go.... Set aside a spare day one weekend soon.

Arm yourself with essential items such as
Silicon Lubricant Spray: A veritable "Swiss army knife" that will save you a fortune in the long run.

Electrical contact cleaner: Essential for all those sticky switches, motors, relays, contacts and relays to name a few.

Copper grease (spray on or brush applied will do). For all those hinges, locks, brake pads and linkages.

Extra concentrated coolant (2 ltrs) 33% for summer coolant use but remember 50/50% mix for winter so we need to add extra, I will explain how to do this without the need to drain and bleed the system.

New Fuel filter for the JTD owners. Self explanatory and easy to do DIY... Remember that water ingresses into diesel and settles at the bottom of the filter and as we know, water can freeze!

Relevant tool kit to aid in the work you are about to do.

Some things for safety first... During the winter carry in your car:
A blanket, A bottle of water (2ltr minimum), A tow rope, A shovel, A torch with good batteries, 5ltr can of spare fuel, tin of defrost spray and above all with the dark nights now, a high visibility vest and a spare set of bulbs..

Next we need to take a trip to a local tyre and exhaust centre to take the liberty of the many FREE safety checks that they offer... Remember, you are under NO OBLIGATION to buy anything! So abuse the use of these FREE checks, these include:

Coolant hydrometer percentage checks.
Battery and Alternator health checks.
Tyre pressure and tread depth checks.
Windscreen wiper blade and Lighting checks.
Brake pad and disc checks
Suspension checks.
Wheel alignment (tracking) checks.

At the very least, it will make you aware at what may fail, what may wear out and what you may need soon... ABUSE IT! Just use your better judgement if you feel that the wool is being pulled over your eyes, some centres will try so ask for print outs and proof!

Once we have all that out the way and we have a clean bill of health, check that your service period is not due, if it is get it done now! It will save you money in the long run.... Even independent specialists and main dealers offer these services above.

Now the stuff we can all do at home.
Electric windows and door seals can often get sticky this time of year and can quite easily jump off their runners or even break the cables... The last thing you want is a window that won't wind back up on a cold, wintery day.
Open the windows fully and spray silicon down the rubber channels and seals that the window moves up and down on... Now operate the windows up and down fully a few times... First job done.
Wow... That was easy!

Next we move onto door locks and seals etc.

Spray the lubricant around the handle push button and push it in about five or six times, this will dispel any water inside and prevent it sticking on the coldest days, nothing worse when you cant press it in and once you bash it in, chances are it won't pop back out! So you put your key in and try and force it back out, only to break the key off the fob and leave the rest in the door lock...... I know what I would rather do to prevent it!

Lightly spray the rubber door seals with the silicon spray (GT OWNERS TAKE NOTE) This will prevent the doors from sticking against the metal door frames as much and prevent those many, many posts of broken door handles!
Remember, prevention is far better than the cure!.... And cheaper"

Now use the copper grease on the door lock mechanisms, hinges and check straps. wipe off any excess on the painted surfaces to stop the wife killing you as she rubs past it getting into the car and ruining her clothes though!
This will help with that horrible creaking in the winter like a haunted house during the winter and may well save you forking out for yet another door check strap mechanism.

While we have the doors open... Give the electric window switches a quick spray with the electrical contact cleaner and operate them with the ignition off about twenty times....
Why? Well in the winter or even the rest of the year on the rare occasion we have the windows open, rain, sleet and snow can get in and always makes its way to these switches somehow... The contacts below can rust , ingress dirt and grit which can also play their part and next thing you know, the window will not operate Or even worse, go down but not come up... Spray it and prevent it!

Open the boot and perform the same process as above to the lock, the seals and the hinges.
Move to the front of the car and do the same to the bonnet, paying attention to the locking mechanism and cable end... Last thing you want is not being able to open the bonnet when you have no more screen wash left!

While you are in there.... Remove the relays near the battery one at a time as to avoid confusion a give them a spray and the connections with the contact cleaner, then re-fit.

Disconnect the battery terminals + first of course then -.
Clean them up with wire wool and brush on copper grease around the battery posts in order to protect and make a good contact... Re-fit the terminals securely. Pay attention to the positive terminal that has two thin rings on it... Make sure the top ring is on the battery post too before nipping up the nut or you WILL have connection issues!

Now we need to look at the coolant and offer it a bit more protection for the winter.... Remember the free coolant check?... If you asked how much more is needed to make it 50/50% then it's easy to do.
We need to open the filler cap and leave it off the expansion tank while we get the engine up to running temperature with the heater controls set to maximum temperature also.

While its doing this and while the coolant is still cold we need to loosen the small return hose clip that sits at the top of the expansion tank so it makes it easy to pull off later once its hot.... Push the jubilee clip down the hose out the way so we don't end up dropping it in the engine bay!

Once we are up to temperature we need to do a bit of two handed surgery but if we have a helper its a lot easier....
Wearing thick'ish gloves with some rubber gloves over the top for safety and having a bucket ready to catch the excess hot coolant, gently pull off the top loose return hose and let it drain into the bucket... Now this is where it gets tricky and a helper comes in handy.

Get your helper to pour in the neat undiluted coolant at the same time so that the expansion tank level doesn't drop below minimum. Once you are happy you got it all up to a set amount to make it 50/50 mix, quickly push the return hose onto expansion tank fitting, don't worry it wont spray all over, its low pressure. Turn the engine off and move the jubilee clip back into the correct position and re-tighten... Refit the expansion tank filler cap and be proud of your work.

You may not know it but you have also checked the operation of your themostat and radiator fans in the process just in case you didn't know.

We are almost done ( petrol owners that is)
You don't have to do this but I always go for a "belts and braces" approach
Check the condition of your auxiliary belt, pay attention to the inside ribs... Are they showing signs of splitting? Get it changed ASAP or you may find that with the cold weather it will squeal at best or at worst, destroy itself and leave you stranded with no alternator power once the battery gives up... Not good, but at least you have the blanket in the boot to keep you warm eh!

Check all your electrical contacts to each and every sensor one at a time , spray with contact cleaner and re-fit... Self explanatory really, when was the last time they were checked? Do you really want to do it in freezing cold sleet on the hard shoulder at 3 am instead? No... I didn't think so, so don't be lazy.... You will always get to know your car a little better anyway!

Keep your screen wash completely full and have a good mix of antifreeze in it... Yo will have noticed that Alfa wipers aren't the best and the last thing you need is have no washers working on a journey... You always have that 2 ltr bottle of water in the boot just in case...

Start checking your tyre pressures more regularly (every two weeks at least) Do you really need to be told how important your tyre health is in these conditions?
Or you can always change one on a roadside due to blow out because of low tyre pressure and drive on the "very safe" space saver in icy conditions if you prefer?

Just in case though, get the space saver tyre pressure checked... It CAN happen so best to be prepared!

You can also quickly dab through the holes of your teledial alloys some copper grease onto the back of the outer pads (which get the most hammer from road salt) and sliders to prevent future brake squeal.... But I prefer to take the wheels off and strip the calipers down to do them properly of course, then you can apply copper grease to the wheel bolt threads too... Nothing worse than not being able to change a spare wheel due to siezed bolts against cold alloy in the winter

Now the JTD owners... If you are not too sure how too, there are plenty tutorials (search) on the forum about changing the fuel filter and it isn't rocket science so enjoy and I will save typing... It will save your fuel freezing at its weakest point because of trapped water in the bottom of the filter and keep your fuel system tip top

Again... Another thing that you don't have to do but given how easy it is to check, I would...
Glow plugs!!!!! Every year the forum is taken up by one post or another about "My JTD won't start"... NEWS FLASH!!!!!!!!!!!

We are fed up as a group of answering the same query with the same reply.

Remove them re-attach the contact rail and connector block back to them and place them on your wife's old baking tray (she won't know) to give them something to rest on and prevent doing any heat damage...

Now with the bonnet open, turn the ignition on but don't start the car! wait for the glow plugs to heat up and glow... Are they doing it at all the same time or is one or two slower?... Is one dimmer (colder) than the others?
Turn ignition off quickly as this will only take a few seconds to check.

For the cost of them and the fact that they are usually changed all the same time, replace all of them at the same time again as the chances are the old good ones won't be far away from failure.
Perform the same task above again before fitting new ones... It's not unknown to get the odd duff glow plug from new.

Last but not least and probably the most important.... This time of year! Lights and bulbs can fail anytime so carry spares ... But PLEASE check them regularly... Take a walk round the car before setting off on your journey.... Or...

You can always wait for blue flashing lights and a 60 fine for insufficient illumination to tell you that you should check them instead!
We all drive down the road and see how many cars with one headlight bulb out and mutter to ourselves "what a D!ck Head" Please don't be one of them!
Now... you are all set for winter and you have greatly reduced the risk of car breakdown failure being a factor by at least 90%

Another thing that is also common sense and working for VOSA I stopped a lot of car owners for doing was:

Snow on top of the roof... We have all done it but does it really take that long to clean it off?
We all clean our windows off anyway or at least I hope we do!
Scenario I always gave was... If you have to emergency brake all that snow will quickly make its way onto your windscreen as the bottom half has been warmed by the roof of the car... You are now blind and can't see what is in front of you... Is it worth running over a child who ran out into the road for two minutes effort on your part? ABS is no good to help you avoid a collision if you can't see where to steer!
I have seen too many collisions on our roads that could be so easily avoided because of this, please don't be a statistic.

Good luck...

Hope this helps some people and please add extra info if you wish

Last edited by Grahameo; 06-11-12 at 16:28.
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That's a great guide.. though my alfa refuses to show temps below 0

PS. On good winter tyres... it goes anywhere
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To improve visibility in the morning:
  • Clean the inside of the windshield with window cleaner (or silicone remover if you're eager with the "plastic-shine-renewer"-products) This makes it harder for the water to condensate and start fogging up.
  • Replace the pollen filter for better air flow. It's amazing how much dirt they collect during one summer.
  • Pour lukewarm water on the windows to de-ice (no, the windows wont crack unless they are already damaged)
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I cannot recommend rain-x enough. I tend to clean the windscreen every weekend, and a quick wipe with it costs almost nothing and takes seconds. It makes a remarkable difference to the visibility, and if your wipers pack up on the motorway, you can drive in heavy rain without a problem.

I would also add the battery. If you have the slightest suspicion that it is flaky, change it. A good test is to leave the headlights on for half an hour and then start the car. That should take about 10 Ah out of the battery (20 amps for 30 minutes) - which is chuff all for a 70 Ah battery. If the car is remotely sluggish to turn over, new battery. It is also worth putting a voltmeter on the alternator if you have one. Start the car, turn on every electrical load, and measure the voltage at the battery. If less than 13.5V, get the alternator checked.
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Clean icy screens properly. Don't be one of those who lazily flip on wipers, to find they're frozen.........and burn your motor out.
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Good guide, thanks for taking the time. I'm sure we'll still be influxed with newbie threads about the broken bulb warning light and Serbs struggling to start.
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Great right up ! Commented to have this thread for an easy find. Will be doing all those minor jobs once i have got my self service done.

BTW about the battery... In the morning on start up in the 1st .. 2 seconds or so my 156 seems to have like a power surge / 1 second of reduced electronics, i suppose is the way to explain it. is this a hint of a weak battery?

What are the places that would do all the free checks - as i think i will get that done. would ATS offer that service?

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Or, just leave the Alfa in the garage till spring and take the Range Rover, lol.
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Originally Posted by Mike_ts156 View Post
Great right up ! Commented to have this thread for an easy find. Will be doing all those minor jobs once i have got my self service done.

BTW about the battery... In the morning on start up in the 1st .. 2 seconds or so my 156 seems to have like a power surge / 1 second of reduced electronics, i suppose is the way to explain it. is this a hint of a weak battery?

What are the places that would do all the free checks - as i think i will get that done. would ATS offer that service?

Yes ATS do them ,as does Halfords and Kwikfit to name a few.... It's almost like swearing taking your Alfa's to them but there is no better feeling than asking for a free service and fleecing them over for it by buying nothing

It could be a sign of your battery being week or just a lazy starter or even your Aux belt a little worse for wear but I would advise getting the charge state of the alternator checked to confirm... Like I said, it's FREE
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Good post Graham, and plenty I need to do.

Just to pull you up on one thing, perhaps with an odd question - do you think the spare tyre should be stored fully inflated? It's very rare but there have been incidents where tyres have exploded in the cabin - one woman was killed when this happened (Woman killed by exploding tyre - PistonHeads)
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The only problem is they (ATS, Halfrauds, Kwik Fit, etc) WILL tell you all is wrong with your car. All very well getting the free check but I wouldn't have any of the work done at any of these places. Any decent Alfa inde will carry out any of these checks probably for free. Some run 'Saturday surgeries' infact there's one this Saturday at simply Alfa's in Stourbridge where you can have your car checked over much more thoroughly, get fed and watered and have a laugh with other Alfisti

While I'm picking faults, sorry, does anyone bother to change their coolant back to 33% come spring?? And isn't it easier to keep the fuel topped up rather than carry around a tin of the stuff.
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That is a very thorough and interesting read.

Going by your guide though, not one of my cars in all my years of driving has ever been ready for winter!
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Question chaps (and btw, OP, great guide - I had set aside this weekend for "winterisation" of the GT)

My one question is regarding the undertray. Mine is, for want of a better phrase, knackered. The two sections which attach behind the wheels have both cracked, fractured and detatched - and are held on with some strategically placed plastic ties (courtesy of the garage, who failed to tell me)

Anyway, I'm going to TRY and salvage the situation and at least secure it for the winter - however, whilst I'm under there, anything else I should be looking for? Car's 2008, 40k, so shouldn't be in too bad condition.
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Excellent and timely post Graham. As an IAM member I'm almost constantly surprised at the amount if cars driving around with defective lights, dodgy underinflated tyres, uncleared icy windows etc. as you say, it's just lazy.
I would add one thing only: when it gets really cold, for Christ's sake take off your woolly gloves before you drive off - they just slip round the steering wheel. Scares the bejesus out of me every time I see that in the rear view mirror.
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Excellent guide Graham.

Just one point, batteries should always be disconnected negative first & reconnected negative last. Removes any chance of the spanner arcing the positive terminal to a nearby earth.
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As gtcliff mentions +1.

May I also suggest for door locks, and their retaining straps, bonnet catches, hinges etc, white lithium spray grease is possibly a more penetrating choice to go for. Also regarding electric window switches do you mean topside lubrication or with the armrest or whatever removed for access?
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Great post this should be stickied for the next few months.
I got by last year with a bottle of water, robinsons drink, a shovel, hi vis and my trusty debit card ice scraper. Finally invested in an emergency blanker, folding shovel, fuel can and a proper ice scraper. Should last plenty of winters
Edit: spacesavers are a must in emergencies. Get rid of the foam rubbish if you have it and get a proper SS. The foam really is pants and is more hassle than its worth
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+ a warning triangle. Also check the expiry date on your first aid kit.
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Great advice - timely reminder and some new - thanks

Here's my little 1p worth.
Get a few Silica Gel (or Desiccant) bags. I got some re-usable ones from Jewsons (see image).
Keep two in the car, two drying inside the house and rotate them once a week. Helps pick up the interior moisture.

I also use all the disposable ones from Electrical Equipment packaging around the car for the same purpose. Just junk them once they have done their job.
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only thing i would say is... don't you disconnect the negative terminal first on the battery?

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Great write up,Grahameo!
I would add only one thing,not really safety related,but check your underseal as the salt that usually gets liberally plastered over the roads(generally when it isn't needed!) will find any missing or flakey bits and give the tin worm a head start.
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just a quick question here in heavy snow like we had on Sunday (good 3" on the roads) do you turn the ASR off or leave it on? I'm sure its a silly question but I've never turned it off so dont know what real differance it makes
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Leave it on.
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It's a great post but I'm now ****ting myself about the winter ahead with an alfa have never done the majority of this with any car I've had before!
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