How To Prepare Your Car For The Winter
There are several simple steps to take in order to prepare a vehicle for rough winter weather, especially the weather found in the Northern parts of the US and Canada. If you live somewhere which doesn’t get much snow during the year, but you still take road trips to other regions which do, then it’s also important to properly prepare your vehicle. Every single driver out there needs to know how to get a car ready for the harsh winters, even if you’re living there or it’s just a temporary thing.
Getting the correct oil change for the vehicle is one of the most important items to take care of. The vehicle owner’s manual should indicate the correct oil viscosity for the vehicle during each season. If the vehicle is due for a major full service, this should be done before the weather gets too cold. Oil will change in thickness according to the outside ambient temperature; colder temperatures make for thicker oil that may not lubricate a running engine efficiently and cause damage.
Windshield wipers today are far more advanced than early versions. Even if a vehicle is older, modern windshield wiper manufacturers make replacement blades that are more efficient at clearing rain, snow and even ice from a windshield. Windshield wiper fluid should be topped off before the weather turns bad, as regular water will not act as a de-icing agent to clear the windshield. The vehicle defroster and heater should also be in working order before weather turns nasty.
The perfect time of year to maintain a vehicle’s battery is at the end of fall, before the weather turns cold. Especially in Northern climates, harsh weather can take a toll on battery cables and posts, often causing failure when trying to start the car. If the battery in the vehicle is more than three years old, it should be taken to any repair or auto parts store to be tested to make sure it hold a charge. Acid filled batteries operate on water and electrolytes; the water level should be checked to be sure it is filled to the correct level.
Belts and hoses are not generally high on a vehicle owner’s priority list. However, freezing temperatures can cause old hoses and belts to crack and fail. This can leave a driver stranded when they least expect it. Like the belts and hoses, tires can also suffer damage from driving in cold weather climates. They should be checked once per month for proper tire inflation and rotated on a recommended schedule. Most tire shops will check the tire pressure and tread depth at no charge.
Snow tires are an option many drivers should take advantage of in the winter, especially in far Northern locations with mountains or hills. This type of terrain can make for treacherous driving conditions on regular street tires. Asking tire shops for the out-the-door price on switching to snow tires can avoid any surprise costs and fees associated with mounting and balancing the heavier tires.
If you’ve done all of the maintenance possible, it’s also a good idea to learn and understand the general steps to follow if you end up stranded somewhere in the snow. Make sure you get a good emergency kit, which can be a real life saver sometimes. Essentials for this kit can include flares, jumper cables, tire chains, a basic tool kit, a first-aid kit, a shovel, flashlight, blankets, easily stored dry food and water. By having the proper winter equipment and having your car ready for winter, you’ll be safer during your winter driving.