Winterizing Your Vehicle: Car Care Tips for Winter
Brace yourself, winter is coming.
Sorry for the cheesy Ned Stark reference but we had to throw it in at least once. Now that we got that out of the way, no one really likes to talk about it, but winter IS coming and will be here sooner than many realize.
October is National Fall Car Care Month. Much like with cleaning your house in the spring, this time should be used to evaluate your vehicle’s condition and make sure it is operating at peak performance and ready for colder weather.
Here is a list of the steps to take to prepare your vehicle for the harsh winter.
1. Find and Read Your Owner’s Manual
Your owner’s manual is your best friend. If you haven’t familiarized yourself with that book than take time to remove it from the glove box where it has likely been hiding all this time, and read it. This will guide you through much of the winterization you will need to make. Just like snowflakes, no two vehicles are the same and therefore caring for them will be different.
2. Get an Oil Change
This should be a regular task you do to your vehicle every few months or few thousand miles. During winter months, oil tends to get thicker with the cold weather. You’ll want to make sure to have the right oil viscosity as the temperatures start to drop. An Owner’s Manual should help you with exactly what type of oil to use at different times of year. If you followed step one, you should already know exactly what type of oil that is.
3. Check and Top-off All Fluids
After you have given your vehicle an oil change, use this time to top off any and all fluids under the hood. Windshield washer fluid and anti-freeze are the most important heading into the winter season. Remember a mix of 50/50 water and anti-freeze will ensure the radiator doesn’t freeze. The other important fluids to check are transmission fluid, brake fluid and power steering fluid.
4. Check the Tire Pressure
We’ve included this step here but you’ll want to continue this as the temperatures continue to fall. Tire pressure is very important for traction and control. As the weather gets colder and colder, the tire pressure gets lower. Goodyear suggests that tire pressure drops 1-2 pounds for every 10 degrees of temperature change. Reference your Owner’s Manual for the specific range the tire pressure your wheels need to be within.
5. Evaluate the Condition of Your Tires
Depending on the type of driving and the terrain in which you’ll drive on this winter, you will want to consider getting replacing any bald or worn-out tires, or even adding a set of snow tires to your vehicle. You may have gotten away with a balding tire during the summer months, but add ice and snow to the ground and you will quickly learn that you will need to replace that tire. A new pair or set of tires don’t come cheap at roughly $100 a tire. Look at that as an investment rather than an expense as many insurance deductibles are much higher than the cost of replacing a tire. If replacing a tire can save you the expense and headache of a potential accident this winter, your investment will have greatly pay off.
6. Inspect Your Windshield Wipers and Replace if Necessary
Ever notice that when it rains, the wipers make a loud squeak noise or miss an area on the windshield when moving back and forth? These are likely signs that you will need to replace your wiper blades. There are 4 S’s to wiper blade replacement and they include: skipping, streaking, splitting and squeaking. Once again, you may have gotten away with not replacing them during the summer, but once that rain turns to ice, you’ll realize that you can no longer procrastinate. Most manufacturers note that wipers should be replaced every 6-12 months, so regardless if you are experiencing a problem or not, it may be time to replace them.
7. Check the Battery and Charging Posts
With the heaters running on full power, defrost working tirelessly to remove ice and fog, windshield wipers quickly moving back and forth and many other electrical drains on the battery happening at once, you’ll need to make sure your battery is in tip-top shape. Remove the battery from the vehicle and look for any corrosion at the electrical posts. A wire brush will help remove and dirt and buildup that has collected. You won’t want to be stuck in the middle of nowhere due to a dead battery.
8. Consider Purchasing or Making an Emergency Preparedness Kit
Accidents can and will happen no matter what you do. Making sure you are prepared for them not only before, but after they happen is very important. Much like a seatbelt or an airbag, you will be very thankful of having an emergency preparedness kit only after you have used it. These can be purchased with many of the items included in a convenient pack, or you can assemble one yourself and place in an old backpack. Here is a list of some of the important things to consider having in your kit.
- Roadside Flares
- First-aid Kit
- 2 Quarts Oil
- Brake Fluid
- Tire Pressure Gage
- Jumper Cables
- Additional Ice Scrapper
- Granola Bars or Protein Bars
- Purified Water
- Battery Powered Radio
- Tow Rope
- Cell Phone Charger / Adapter
- Cat Liter or Road Salt
These are eight easy-to-follow steps that will ensure you are safe while driving during the winter months. Many of these are things you should routinely be doing throughout the year. As National Car Care Month, take October and remember to make those steps to ensure your vehicle stays running through the Spring.