As the temperatures drop, give your car some TLC to maintain it through the winter. Ensure your car is prepared for the cold by following these easy steps.
1. Check your tires
Are your tire treads worn out? If so, your car will be less stable. Worn treads increase your car’s stopping distance in icy, wintry conditions, making accidents more likely. Tires with worn treads can’t get a good grip on the road, and they need to be replaced.
Colder weather also affects your tire pressure. Be sure you have a pressure gauge in your car. Underinflated tires can cause your car to skid on slippery surfaces. A portable air compressor that lets you pump your car’s tire is worth keeping in your car during the winter.
Consider investing in snow tires if you live in an area that gets lots of snow. Winter tires let you get better traction on icy roads.
2. Service your battery
Cold winter weather can really take a toll on your car battery. Sub-zero temperatures cut the energy in a fully-charged car battery down by half, which can lead to trouble on the road. You’ll probably be using your car’s defroster and heater when it’s cold out, which will put added strain on your car’s battery.
Check your battery’s condition with a battery load test. It will let you know how much voltage, internal resistance, and conductance are available in your battery. Depending on your battery’s condition, decide whether to replace your battery with a new one.
3. Examine your wipers
Intact windshield wiper blades are a winter must. Your visibility hinges on the state of your wipers, so don’t neglect them in your pre-winter car check.
Examine your windshield wipers to see whether they’re worn out. Wiper blades can dry out or split, leaving them unable to clear your windshield properly. Brittle wipers can leave streaks of liquid on your windshield, making it hard to see.
Special winter windshield wiper blades have an extra rubber cover to prevent sleet or snow from piling up. They can be switched in and out for the season. Consider investing in a set to use during the winter months if you do a lot of cold-weather driving.
4. Check fluids
Speaking of windshields, be sure that your windshield washer fluid tank is full. Driving through even one snowstorm can use up a significant amount of washer fluid. The liquid in your tank should be able to withstand freezing temperatures. Auto stores sell washer fluid antifreeze that you can add to keep your fluid from turning to ice. Be sure you have an extra gallon of windshield fluid to quickly fill it up if you run out.
Other fluids to check during a winter car tune-up include oil change fluid, radiator coolant (antifreeze), motor oil, and brake fluid. Having the proper type of fluid in the right ratio keeps your car running smoothly.
5. Protect your car’s exterior
A clean car is an important part of winter car protection. Road salt that’s used to melt snow and ice can do a number on your car’s exterior leading to buildup or rust. Clean your car’s wheel wells to eliminate road salt before it has a chance to corrode the car’s metals.
Whether you opt to go to a car wash or choose to wash your car yourself, a good cleaning is key. By removing dirt and grime from your vehicle, you get it ready for whatever winter sends your way. Finish off the cleaning with a coat of wax that protects your car’s paint.
6. Restore your headlights and taillights
Headlights and taillights are essential, letting you see and be seen by others. Winter driving means it gets dark earlier, and heavy snowfall can cause whiteout conditions while driving, so pay extra attention to your car’s exterior lights. Check to make sure a headlight hasn’t burned out, and replace the bulb immediately if it has. If your headlight casings are cracked, get them repaired so snow or ice can’t get into your car’s electrical components.
Hazy, cloudy lights are a hazard to you and other vehicles on the road. Brighten foggy lights regularly with a glass cleaner. If that doesn’t do the trick, a headlight restoration kit can ensure that your lights remain shining.
7. Check your brakes
Don’t neglect your car’s brakes. Snow, ice, slush, and rain on the roads mean your car needs to be able to stop quickly. Have your brakes checked and replace brake pads or rotors if they’re worn out. If you hear metal grinding sounds or chirping noises when you brake, drive directly to a trusted mechanic and have your brakes looked at, no matter the weather. It just may prevent you from having a car accident.
8. Check belts, filters, and other car parts
Wires and belts should be examined for cracks, cables checked for lubrication, and hoses for potential leaks. Cold weather and dry winter air can cause these car parts to become dried out, blocked, brittle, or cracked. Service your car so it doesn’t break down, leaving you stuck on the road in icy or stormy weather.
Have the mechanic change your car’s cabin air filter when needed. If dirty, your car’s HVAC won’t work well, and the windows won’t defog properly. Plus, you’ll be dealing with a musty odor, allergens, and contaminants in the air as you drive.
9. Protect glass surfaces
You can easily de-ice your car’s windows and windshield by spraying them with a mix of one part water to three parts vinegar. The vinegar will keep frost and ice from building up on the glass and make it easy to remove with an ice-scraper. Being able to see clearly in all conditions is the name of the game when it comes to winter driving.
10. Pack a winter emergency kit
Even if you’re well prepared, keep a box of emergency supplies in your car. Include the following:
- First aid kit
- Road flares
- Triangle reflector
- Jumper cables
- Tire inflator and patch kit
- Tire pressure gauge
- Traction pads
- Tool kit
- Ice scraper and brush
- Cell phone charger
- Snack and water
If you use up any items from your kit, be sure to replace them. Remember to fill up your car’s gas tank often to prevent the gas line from freezing and to keep from running out of fuel.
Staying safe on the road in the winter requires some extra preparation and planning ahead. While you’re being smart about your car, you’ll want to consider an extended warranty that will help you save money on car repairs. Check out our list of the top ten extended car warranty companies of 2021 to be sure you get a great deal. Here’s to happy and safe road travel this winter and all year round.