Updated August 23, 2003

Tech Article: Winterizing

Winterizing your Porsche

by David W. Bynon, San Diego Region (from THE WINDBLOWN WITNESS)

Although we live in a near perfect climate on the coast of Southern California, that does not mean that we should not prepare our cars for winter. Years ago I moved away from the mild weather of San Diego to the not-so-nice winters of Washington, DC. It took me two years to learn how to dress for the cold, freezing rain and snow. And so it was with my 944 Turbo, too. Let's face it, you wouldn't dream of a weekend at Big Bear mountain with the snow, ice, and wind without a coat, gloves and other cold-weather gear, would you? Your Porsche deserves the same level of protection.

Many Porsche owners put their cars away for Winter. At the first sign of rain they get tucked into the garage, where they stay snug as a bug. I never understood this mentality. These cars are designed for driving in all sorts of conditions. After learning skid control the hard way, I'd take my 944 Turbo out in the worst ice and snow conditions. Doing so, however, put my car's paint, tires, glass, plastic and other surfaces at the mercy of the elements, including wind, rain, sleet, snow, sand, gravel, cinders, salt and road oil.

Fall is your best opportunity to inspect and prepare your car with a protective layer, giving your Porsche a fighting chance against the elements. Your car's paint, tires, leather and rubber trim all need touching up in the fall, even if you have cared for them all Summer. Here in Southern California, our biggest problem is the first couple of rains in October and November. By this time, we have gone six to seven months without an appreciable amount of precipitation. As a result, our roads are covered with oil, carbon, brake and tire dust, and other pollutants. Add water, and you have a slippery acid bath.

If your car will be exposed to extreme winter conditions, the best protective coating is an acrylic sealant. Unlike waxes, an acrylic sealant can shield against water, oils and other road pollutants. The hard acrylic shell locks onto the paint with an elastic, non-chip, shrink-proof, scratch resistant finish. A high quality acrylic sealant will last five to six months, providing more than enough protection for the winter season. My  favorites are Klasse and Meguiar's Polymer Sealant #20.

Your Porsche is more likely to be scratched during winter due to all of the potential debris on the road. Also, as prolonged moisture penetrates deep into scratches and chips in your car's paint, oxidation will set in. A quick and easy way to reduce winter oxidation is to wash your car as often as possible and inspect for paint chips and scratches. When found, seal new paint chips with wax or an acrylic sealant.

Winter is also hard on leather interiors. Cold, dry air pulls the moisture from the leather. So, it's important to treat leather prior to the onset of cold temperatures. Once the daytime temperature dips below 50 degrees (Fahrenheit), the leather will not accept conditioners. Although the surface will look good, you have not provided moisture to the hide. I like a number of products, but particularly like 303 Aerospace Protectant as a general purpose Winter protectant, as it has the best UV block I have found.

Your car's tires have a tough job in the winter too. Liberal use of a high quality tire dressing keeps them looking good during the harshest weather and provides a barrier to the elements and to ozone that can cause rubber to deteriorate. Here, again, I recommend 303 Protectant or Lexol Vinylex. Both offer excellent UV protection.

If you plan to visit a region that gets snow and ice, another easy tip for winter car protection is to spray a silicone-based tire dressing in the wheel wells to prevent buildup of snow, ice and road salt. Although not recommended for your exterior painted surfaces (it makes body shop repairs difficult), silicone is an excellent protectant for your engine, wheel wells, and the under side of your car.

I highly recommend that all Porsche owners remove and detail their wheels at least once a year. Fall is a great time to do so. Delicate wheels should be cleaned, inspected, and sealed in order to keep them looking their best. Clean each wheel, front and back, with a gel wheel cleaner such as P21S Gel. Scrub the tires thoroughly, too. Dry the wheels with a clean terry cloth towel. Protect with a high quality acrylic sealant. Complete the job by treating the tires (front and back) with a liberal application of tire dressing. Allow the dressing to soak in for 5 to 10 minutes before wiping off the excess.

Other parts of your Porsche's exterior such as the bumpers, trim and rubber door seals need extra protection when the mercury drops, too. These materials are affected by extreme temperatures and the Sun's ultraviolet (UV) radiation. UV radiation causes fading, hardening and cracking, especially in the winter with a reduced ozone layer. 303 Protectant products have a proven formula that helps keep these surfaces supple and looking like new. For the ultimate protection of your door, hood and trunk seals, use Zymol Seal twice a year. Zymol Seal prolongs the useful life of rubber seals by helping them retain moisture. When properly maintained, door and trunk seals will maintain their shape and elasticity longer, providing a better seal.

If you drive your Cabrio in cold winter weather, now is the time to clean and protect your top. If water penetrates your top, then freezes, your top will be prone to severe damage. For more information, go to: http://www.autopia-carcare.com/cabriotopcare.html.

Don't forget to inspect your windshield wipers, too. Replace them if there's any sign of wear. Remember, you're going to be counting on them to deal with winter's worst. While you're at it, check your wash fluid and add a wash booster, such as P21S Windshield Wash Boost. A good wash booster will help cut through road grime so you can see.

If your Porsche's battery is more than 6 years old, think about replacing it. Even if your battery is relatively new, you should inspect it before winter arrives. Make certain the terminals and posts are free of corrosion (clean with baking soda and water) and the terminals are tight.

Have the cooling system checked for the correct concentration and level of anti-freeze. If your vehicle needs additional coolant, follow Porsche's recommendation for the ratio of water to coolant. Boxster and 996 owners do not use a regular anti-freeze. If it's an emergency, add water only.

Changing the oil and filter before winter is the single most important step to prolong your Porsche's engine life. Older Porsches require a change every 3,000 to 4,500 miles. The new cars go up to 15,000 miles (average annual mileage) between oil changes, so have it changed before winter. Finally, worn tires won't give you the traction you need on wet, icy roads. If your tires are worn, replace them. I don't know about you, but I hate the feeling of hydroplaning. Likewise, correct tire pressure ensures optimum handling, stopping and wear. Check tire pressure frequently because cold air causes tire pressure to drop (one pound for every 10 degrees Fahrenheit). If we have an extended cold winter, your tires may be underinflated, causing irregular tire wear.

Ed: David Bynon operates the website Autopia-Carcare.com. Visit this site for
more information about car care and as a source for most of the products and
tools seen in this column.

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