How to Prepare Your Vehicle for Winter Weather
Periodic vehicle maintenance can help keep your car running efficiently and last longer. People most often remember to change the oil and oil filter, fill up the windshield washer fluid, and have the A/C charged, but other maintenance is required to ensure optimal performance from your vehicle regardless of age. The following will provide a few tips on what to check in your vehicle during the winter months to help avoid becoming stranded on a cold winter night.
Car Care Tips for Winter Driving
Tip 1: Perform an Antifreeze Evaluation
Antifreeze is a chemical added to the cooling system to lower its freezing point. It helps to keep the engine at a normal operating temperature. As the temperature drops your anti-freeze will keep the water in your car from freezing. Water freezes at 32 degree Fahrenheit and winter weather will play havoc on a frozen engine. The engine block, heads and radiator may crack if the water freezes and expands inside the engine.
Check the level of Antifreeze in your vehicle according to your manufactures specifications. You can also have a professional check the level. Many places such as Pepboys will perform a free Antifreeze evaluation or charge a small fee around $10. This inspection could save you money in the long run.
Tip 2: Check your Battery
During the summer an older battery may not show signs of problems. As the weather cools down a battery will not perform properly and you may be left out in the cold. Professional technicians can perform a battery test on your vehicle to determine if a new one is needed. You can also predict if you will need to replace the battery based on the number of miles you have on your vehicle. A new battery will typically last three to five years. Many automotive stores will check your battery for free. AutoZone will check your battery, alternator, starter and voltage regulator for free and help you choose the right product if you need a replacement.
Tip 3: Check your Fuel Gage
Keeping your vehicle at least 1/2 full during the winter will help to reduce the chances of fuel line freeze up. If moisture enters your system it may freeze in the fuel line and prevent the fuel from reaching the engine. If the line does freeze up it may prevent your car from starting or it could stall during operation. Adding gas line anti-freeze may help to resolve the problem or replace the fuel filter. Check with an automotive technician if you encounter this type of problem.
Tip 4: Check you Oil
As mentioned, most car owners have their oil changed every 3,000 miles (or 5,000 for newer vehicles), but if you have an older vehicle you may not be as diligent in this simple maintenance task. During the winter months it is important to continue or establish a regular oil change schedule and you may consider changing to an oil grade recommended for the winter. Using a lighter grade oil in the winter may be optimal. Check your owner’s manual or with a technician for your specific vehicle and driving conditions recommendations.
NOTE: If you live in an area where the temperature stays below freezing for long stretches in the winter you may want to consider having an engine block heater installed. This can reduce wear and tear on your vehicle and help give your vehicle a boost on a cold winter morning.
Regular maintenance and checks on the battery, oil, antifreeze, and fuel can prevent unwanted problems when starting and operating a vehicle during the winter. The following will review a few basic tips to help keep you safe while driving during the winter.
Tips for Winter Operation
Consider this, while driving down the interstate a semi blows past you and sprays snow and salt all over the windshield of your vehicle. You turn on the windshield wipers, but the snow and slush does not wipe away. You try to spray windshield washer fluid, but it is empty. Now you are forced to pull over to clean off the windshield. Taking a few minutes to check your vehicle can help to prevent problems before they happen.
Tip 1: Check Windshield Washer Fluid Level
Having quick access to clean your windshield can help you maintain safe driving habits. Snow, ice, and salt residue can all build up on your vehicle windows during the winter reducing visibility. Make sure your fluid level is adequate for your trip. Many automotive centers fill the washer fluid during an oil change. Also, it is simple to fill your washer fluid reservoir in your vehicle. You can purchase washer fluid at gas stations, Meijer, Home Depot, and automotive stores like Advance Auto Parts.
Tip 2: Check Lights and Turning Signals
Proper functioning of your lights is essential for safe driving. Driving with your lights on help to make your car more visible when visibility is low from blowing snow or during a snow storm. Take a few minutes when you are getting fuel to wipe of the grime and salt residue. Replace burnt out bulbs quickly and ensure your caution lights are working in case of an emergency situation.
Tip 3: Replace old or broken Windshield Wipers
Changing out your windshield wipers is an inexpensive way to help you maintain a clear line of sight during the winter. Many manufactures offer winter windshield wiper blades. You can purchase these online or at local stores such as Meijer or Advance Auto Parts.
Tip 4: Check the Tires
Proper inflation, tire tread thickness, and age are all essential components of safety during the winter. Check your owner’s guide to determine what the proper winter tire pressure is for your vehicle. You may want to consider winter tires for your vehicle if you live in an area prone to ice and snow. Winter tires not only help you improve traction when cornering, but they can also help you to stop when you hit a patch of ice.
Tip 5: Create a Vehicle Emergency Kit
Even short trips around town can become hazardous during the winter. Create a vehicle emergency kit in case you get stranded. A few items you may want to include in your kit are a flashlight, jumper cables, water and non perishable food such as canned soup, granola bars, or chocolate, first aid kit, shovel, ice melt, road flares, duct tape, and a few mechanic tools (wrenches, etc.). Other items would include a candle with holder, blankets, and extra gloves/clothing. You will also want to keep emergency numbers for quick access such as AAA, roadside assistance, or local towing companies.
Taking the time to prepare may be all you need to keep out of trouble during the winter months. Also,taking care of your vehicle will help the car last as long as possible and keep you from becoming stranded on a cold winter night. If you vehicle is older and regular maintenance is needed to simply keep it running, you may need to consider an alternate form of transportation when the weather turns cold.
Do you have any vehicle maintenance or winter car care tips? What was the worst thing that has happened to you during the winter? Feel free to share your experiences with our readers.