Winter brings a number of challenges, especially if you live in a particularly cold and icy area, but perhaps none are greater than driving in harsh conditions. The combination of snow, ice, and freezing temperatures creates unique difficulties. As you know, this doesn’t mean you can’t go anywhere, it simply means you need to be prepared.
As snow falls from the sky and latches onto the ground, you’ve got to keep your windshield clear, keep your tires from slipping, and make sure your engine keeps running. There’s a lot to worry about. Getting your car ready for the winter goes a long way towards making it easier and safer for you to drive during the winter. Here are our biggest tips for staying ready for the freezing months.
Just as coolant keeps your engine from overheating in warmer temperatures, it also acts as antifreeze in sub-freezing weather. The right mixture of water and antifreeze will make sure your engine doesn’t freeze over, stranding you on the side of the icy road.
Make sure to check your coolant levels regularly, keeping it topped off. Remember, coolant doesn’t last forever, so check your owner’s manual to learn how often to change it or flush it out.
Next up is the battery, which starts your car, among other things. During freezing weather, the chemicals inside your battery will react slower, resulting in a lower energy output. This means a battery that worked fine the rest of the year might fail during the winter as the mercury drops.
If your battery is a bit older, it might be time to pick up a new one. Ask your technician to do a battery check, which only takes a few seconds, to make sure it’s strong enough to make it through the winter. Similarly, make sure your alternator and the rest of your electrical system is in good shape.
Prepare Your Tires
Your tires are the bridge between you and your car and the road. Their health is critical, so make sure to prepare them beforehand and check them frequently. Here are three things to consider.
Make sure your tires are inflated to the correct pressures, as under-inflation can cause a loss of traction and poor handling. If you’re not sure what the right pressures are, check the label on your door jamb. Sometimes, the right pressure can even be found on the tires themselves.
The unsung hero of tires, the depth of tread is a vital element to ensuring your car has traction on the road all winter long. You should have a professional check your tread, but if you don’t have the chance, you can do it yourself using a penny. Simply insert the penny into your tires’ tread and see if the top of the Lincoln Memorial is covered by the tread; if so, you’re in good shape.
If you’re in a particularly icy area or you simply want to maximize your safety level this winter, winter tires are the best way to do so. They offer a tread design that digs in and grips the snow for better traction and braking. You can even get special ones that actually grip the icy roads, keeping you safer if and when the road freezes.
Wipers and Washer Fluid
Any fluid in your vehicle is at risk in the winter, so you’ll need to make sure you’re properly topped off with washer fluid before it gets too cold. Furthermore, your wipers themselves will wear out much faster in the winter. Wiper streaks in the warm weather can become areas of snow and sleet in the winter.
Purchasing new wiper blades is a good idea, and while you’re at it, it’s best to pick up some winter wiper blades. These heavy-duty blades are made as a single, rubber assembly with no external metal framework that can get clogged by snow. You can also load up with winter washer fluid, which works in below-freezing temperatures, unlike regular fluid.
Fill Your Tank
In the winter, condensation can form inside your gas tank, leading to water in your fuel lines. If this water freezes, your engine won’t be able to get the gas it needs, leaving you with a car that won’t start.
Keeping your gas tank at least half full during the winter not only stops the water from freezing and clogging your engine, it’s also just good practice. You never know when a winter storm might keep you on the road longer than expected, so having a full tank is always a good idea.
Check Your Oil
Winter weather makes oil thicker, making it more difficult to start your engine and producing friction inside the engine. Depending on your vehicle, the manufacturer may recommend a different oil during the winter, so check your manual or ask a technician. If you’re already close to needing an oil change, go ahead and have it changed before the winter gets going.
While your vehicle’s exterior will likely not pose a threat if unprepared, it can get damaged in the winter, which nobody wants. Before you head out on the frozen roads, get your car washed and request a coat of wax be applied. This will keep residual salt, gravel, and ice off your car.
Also, make sure you get the underside and wheel wells sprayed. Inside the car, a set of all-weather floor mats will protect your carpet from getting wet and stained by the salt. Make sure the mat(s) you buy do not interfere with your pedals, though.
The last thing you should do is prepare an emergency kit to keep in your trunk in case of any situation. Many items in a winter emergency kit should honestly be in your car year-round, so it’s never a bad idea to stock up.
You should get heavy blankets, extra winter clothing, bottled water, and energy bars in case you get stranded, as well as garbage bags and antiseptic towelettes. Taking it a step further, pack a first-aid kit, road flares, a flashlight with extra batteries, an ice scraper, and a cell phone charger or backup battery.
Finally, as always, you should have jumper cables, a tire inflator, a tire pressure gauge, and extra coolant and washer fluid, especially on longer drives.
If your car has trouble, your engine won’t start, or you simply have questions, it’s vital to have a mechanic you can trust. That’s where we come in. Our team provides expert full-service repair for almost any European or Lexus vehicle. Contact us today to learn more or get a free estimate on your vehicle and get ready for cold weather.