Winter is just around the corner, so it’s time to prepare your car for the snowy and icy roads ahead. Follow these tips and you’ll sail through the season and avoid some of the common problems that many drivers experience.
Pack An Emergency Kit
One of the easiest ways to avoid winter travel problems it to prepare for the worst. Pack a lidded plastic container with emergency items such as a flashlight and batteries, ice scraper/brush, blankets, gloves and a hat, a bag of kitty litter or sand, lock de-icer, and a few snacks such as energy bars, jerky, or nuts.
When winter ends, transfer the container to the garage or basement to restock and reuse next winter.
A small amount of antifreeze evaporates over time, but low levels can indicate a leak. Without sufficient antifreeze, the engine overheats and it can cause significant, costly damage.
You can buy a tester at most automotive centers and department stores. Use the coolant suggested in your manual and read the instructions when you buy it. You often need to dilute it with water. If you’ve driven many seasons using the same coolant, your vehicle may need a coolant flush.
You may want to add a bottle of gas line antifreeze when you gas up too. It prevents fuel lines from freezing Improves cold starting during winter.
Windshield Washer Antifreeze & Wiper Blades
Manufacturers make windshield washer fluid that is specifically formulated to resist freezing in colder temperatures. These fluids are usually better at removing grime, salt and snow under cold weather conditions, too. Check the temperature rating to ensure it will not freeze during the coldest temperatures in your area and carry extra in your trunk.
It always a good idea to make sure that your wiper blades are in good condition at the beginning of the season, too.
Don’t Forget About Your Tires
If you’ve put off getting tires over the summer and fall, change them before the cold weather hits. Weak tires are more likely to go flat or fail during cold weather, and they can be quite unsafe on slick roads. If you’re unsure whether your tires have sufficient tread, slide a penny into your tire’s tread with the top of Lincoln’s head pointing inward. If you can see all Lincoln’s head, it’s time to replace the tires.
Even if you have good tires on your vehicle, check the tire pressure using a gauge. Proper inflation means less tire wear and superior handling. You may need winter tires if you live in a remote area or one prone to heavy snow storms.
Don’t forget to check the spare, too, and also ensure that your jack is functional. The last place you want to discover it doesn’t work is on the side of the road in the dark.
Change Filters & Oil
Follow your manual’s recommendations for vehicle maintenance. If you bought a used vehicle, you can access most manuals online.
Regular maintenance such as changing air and fuel filters improves energy efficiency and helps your vehicle to run smoother. If you primarily drive in the city, you may need to change your oil and filter often. It’s essential to protect your vehicle’s engine, and you don’t even need to get out of your vehicle if you visit a quick lube station.
Test Your Battery
Most battery shops and auto parts stores will inspect and test batteries for free, without affecting the on-board computer and alarm system. Corrosion on the post and cable connections or a weak battery could leave you stranded in cold weather.
Check The Lights
Winter means less daylight and more night driving. Check all lights work and clean the lenses. Replacing burned out bulbs is usually simple and inexpensive, but very worthwhile. You want other drivers to spot you while traveling, especially during a blizzard.
Vehicles need year-round maintenance, so if you’re not mechanically-inclined take your vehicle into your mechanic before the temperature drops. They’ll give it a once over and check other items such as belts and hoses, so you have a positive winter driving experience and avoid dangerous situations.