No matter how much or how far you plan to drive this winter, you should absolutely make every effort to make sure your car is properly maintained and running well. Even in dry conditions where weather won’t have a major impact on your vehicle’s performance, a breakdown can put a damper on any trip. To avoid an unnecessary pit stop and a potential (and costly) call to a tow truck, take some extra time this season to ensure your vehicles are in top working order and take careful attention to the following:
Check Tires and Tire Pressure – Driving on a road in normal, dry conditions can be risky any time of the year. Winter weather amplifies the level of danger and creates its own new set of problems. To fight the fear of losing control on the road, it is important to make sure your tires are in proper working order.
Depending on how cold it gets in your area, you should check to see if you have winter tires on your car. Some tires are year-round tires and are suitable for colder weather. Look for the snowflake or mountain icon on the tire wall. Unfortunately, year round tires aren’t as effective below 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Winter tires are made of a softer rubber than summer tires, enhancing their traction on slippery surfaces. Summer tires can stiffen in colder weather. In the winter you’ll also want to make sure your tires aren’t worn down. Winter tires or year round tires won’t make a difference if your tires are almost bald.
About every two weeks during the colder months it is important to check the tire pressure and compare it to the suggested pressure in your car owner’s manual. A car with low air pressure could lead to poor gas mileage and over inflating your tire could increase the chances of sliding on slippery surfaces.
Check Your Wiper Blades and Washer Fluid – Any problem that you have in the summer with your windshield wiper blades is only magnified with snow and ice. Ensure your wiper blades are in proper working order or head down to your local auto parts store and get a set of new ones.
Your windshield wiper washer fluid is one thing you need to pay close attention to. If there is a summer fluid or simply water in your washer tank there is a possibility the fluid could freeze. Invest in a winter fluid that will help to keep the frost on your windshield at bay. There are specific fluids with different temperature grades and you’ll want to choose one that can withstand temperatures colder than you would expect.
Test the Coolant/Anti-Freeze – While coolant is typically thought of to keep your car from overheating, especially during the summer months, your antifreeze needs to keep your engine from freezing up. In some northern parts of the United States, the temperatures can drop to 40 below zero, easily. Over time the coolant breaks down and becomes less effective. It might be time to flush the system out completely and put in a new solution. There will be no doubt in your mind when it comes to the coolant protecting the motor and cooling system.
Get an Oil Change and Overall Check – Oil needs to flow quickly and unobstructed through the engine. There are some formulas of engine oil that might thicken or clump up when exposed to colder weather. Take your car in to change the oil and ask for one with a lower viscosity level. You might even notice a boost in gas mileage thanks to the reduced friction.
When you take your car to your local trusted mechanic to do the job, they can also give a professional once-over to the whole car. Ask them to double check the battery. Extremely cold weather is known to kill a bad battery. You don’t want to be stuck waiting for an auto service or a friend to come jump your car when it’s freezing outside.
Make an Emergency Kit – On the off chance that you get stranded, you’ll wish you had one with you. They are easy to put together, store in the truck and not worry about again until next winter. You might want to include:
- A blanket
- A change of clothes
- Candles and matches
- Emergency light sticks or flashlights
- Jumper cables
- Tow rope
- Food items
Store all of these items in a plastic container or duffel bag in your trunk. Put the clothes and blankets at the bottom, hopefully, you won’t need them. When buying food and water for the emergency kit, remember it might freeze as well. Buy foods like granola bars, that won’t freeze or fruit cups that you could eat frozen if need be. Your water might freeze solid as well and need body heat to thaw! The jumper cables, tow rope, and shovel should all be on top and readily accessible.
If you’re concerned about the current status of your car or need to get a few things repaired before you hit the road, contact the team at AutoTech2U to have a professional mechanic come to your location at a time most convenient for you.
Image source, labelled for reuse