Chances are when winter rolls around preparing your vehicle won’t high on your priority list. However, cold weather and icy roads can make for hazardous conditions and put a tremendous strain on many parts of your vehicle. You need to make sure your car can handle slippery road conditions and that it stays in excellent mechanical condition to avoid breakdowns when the temperatures drop. Here are 6 tips for preparing your car to tackle the winter season.
Optimize Fluid Levels for Winter
The best way to make sure your car is winterized your car is to regularly check your fluid levels.
Oil – You always need to make sure your oil levels are sufficient, but if you live in a place where temperatures drop below freezing regularly, you may want to consider switching to a thinner oil. Make sure to consult your vehicle owner’s manual or ask your mechanic about the best way to prevent oil from freezing.
Wiper fluid – Regular wiper fluid won’t do in freezing temperatures. Make sure to switch to a freeze-resistant wiper fluid to keep your windshield clear.
Coolant – It’s vital that you have the correct antifreeze/water mixture in your radiator to prevent your engine from both freezing in cold weather and overheating in summer. It also helps to cut back on corrosion. A 50:50 ratio is considered a normal mixture level that will keep fluids from freezing at temperatures as low as -34 degrees Fahrenheit. Consult your owner's manual to double-check the right mixture needed for your vehicle. Pre-mixed bottles of antifreeze and water can be purchased at local gas stations or automotive stores.
Check Your Tires
Make sure your tires are equipped to handle wet or icy roads that can cause accidents in winter. If winter storms and other adverse weather conditions occur in your area consider replacing all four regular tires with snow tires to improve braking, traction and control.
If you choose to continue using regular tires be sure to check their air pressure regularly with a gauge. Deflated tires decrease traction and increase sliding on ice. You can visit your local gas station to fill your ties to the correct level. Your owner's manual should list the suggested pounds per square inch (psi).
Inspect Your Battery
Car battery capacity is reduced by the cold weather and by age. They last for about three to five years, so keep track of how long a battery has been in your vehicle so you can replace it when the time comes. It’s important to check your battery and its working parts periodically to ensure it’s running properly. Make sure the battery terminals aren’t loose and check over your battery cables for cracks or breaks. A white, powdery substance around the clamps, means that there is corrosion from battery acid. It should be cleaned off with baking soda, water and a toothbrush. If your battery fluid level is below the bottom of the cap, refill with distilled water. Many batteries have a built-in hydrometer eye that tells you the voltage remaining in the battery. A handheld hydrometer can be used the check the voltage level as well.
Hoses and Belts
Winter temperatures can weaken belts and hoses under your hood. They are typically inspected when you bring your car to a mechanic for a tune-up (usually every 30,000 miles), but additional checks can’t hurt. If a belt or hose snaps while you’re driving your safety could be at risk.
Maintain Your Heater and Defroster Units
Foggy windshields in winter can cause serious vision impairments while driving, so it’s important to make sure your defroster unit is functioning properly. Heat is also a necessity when driving in cold temperatures. If you experience a fogging issue, have your car checked for air leaks around the doors and windows.
Put an Emergency Kit in Your Trunk
Be prepared for a worst-case driving scenario in winter – your car breaking down. Should an accident occur on the road you should have a safety kit that includes road flares, flashlight, jack, lug wrench, blanket, shovel, hat and gloves, ice scraper and brush, shovel, container of coolant, snacks, kitty litter (if your tires get stuck in snow) and a first aid kit.