With the winter season just around the corner, you probably already started preparing for the incoming freezing temperatures. Checking the heating installation at home, cleaning the chimney, and adding an extra blanket is mandatory, but there is something else you need to make sure is winterized before the snow starts falling – your car.
Preparing your car for the winter is not only going to bring you some peace of mind and some comfort but is also going to spare you a lot of money that would go into reparations, in case of an unwanted incident.
If you are not a mechanic, it may be hard to know where to start, which is why this article aims to help those wanting to be safe on the road, no matter how icy or snowy it may get out there.
Start with the tires
The first thing you need to take care of is the tires, to ensure the car will stay securely on the road even when ice sets. Apart from making sure you use tires that are suited for wintertime, you also need to remind yourself to check the tire pressure at least once a month.
As the air gets colder, the pressure can drop significantly faster than it normally would. A tire that is under-inflated will not be as secure and can alter the car’s stability on the road. Check the car’s manual to see the pressure level suited for both the front and back tires, depending on the load you usually carry.
Purchasing a set of tire chains can also be a good idea, to get some extra traction when driving on snowy roads. Getting stuck on an uncirculated road in the middle of the night can get quite terrifying, so having a set of tire chains that you can attach whenever you think you might need can be a lifesaver.
Check your battery
During cold weather, battery capacity can lower extremely fast, especially if you don’t use the car for a few days. Make sure to have a professional look at its fluid and cables, to ensure a cold morning won’t lead to its death. Also, make sure to ask about how you can protect your battery, or if you need to take it inside from time to time to avoid it freezing.
The best way to protect it is to park your car in the garage, or purchase a strong cover, to protect the ice or snow from getting into the most undesired of places. This will make mornings a breeze, especially since you don’t have to spend 45 minutes cleaning snow and ice from the car every day.
If you are concerned about the battery, the safest thing to do is purchase a new one right when the cold season starts. This way, you will make sure power is at 100% before the roads start to freeze.
Ensure you have the proper accessories
Making sure you have all the right accessories in hand before the first snow will save you a lot of trouble. Start with the oil and antifreeze and check to see they are at the right level. Antifreeze keeps your engine from freezing during winter, so make sure you use the proper one for your car and that it never gets below the optimal level. In your car’s manual, you will find instructions about how to check the antifreeze levels and what type of antifreeze to use.
Then, make sure you use winter windshield wiper fluid. Summer fluid will not stand a chance in front of freeing temperatures and will most likely freeze when in contact with your windshield. Winter fluid will not only protect the windows but also help remove ice much faster. Ensure to also check the wiper blades, to see if they have been worn out. If they are, change them right away, as they will become useless when having to clean ice from the windshield.
Schedule an inspection
If you want to be 100% sure you won’t face any problems during winter, the best thing to do is to schedule an inspection before cold weather kicks in. A good mechanic will be able to run a diagnosis and see if anything needs to be changed, so that winter will catch you completely prepared.
The car suspension, tires, oil change, anything can be taken care of with a simple visit to the mechanic. They might also suggest switching to a winter-grade oil, which will better lubricate the engine and protect it from cold temperatures.
Your brakes also need an inspection, as they will be under a lot more strain during the winter season. The rotors are prone to rust, due to moisture and salt from the snow, meaning they risk not working properly. Winter is much more than snowy roads, it means exposing your car to ice, salt, cold weather and slushy dirt, which can really damage it if you are not careful enough.
Winter driving tips
Besides making sure your car is fully inspected and equipped for winter, you also need to adjust your driving style for the cold season:
- In the morning, turn on the engine and let it run for a few minutes, before driving. This will help the car adjust to the climate and avoid wasting fuel.
- Make sure to remove all ice and snow from the car before driving, as it can be a real hazard for both you and the other drivers. If heavy snow accumulates on the top of the car, you risk it falling either on your windshield, and reduce visibility, or on the road, and put other drivers in danger. Chunks of ice can also fall from your car and endanger other drivers, or cause your car to malfunction.
- Drive slower and safer than usual, as you may be faced with icy roads, which provide far less traction than usual. This means your brakes will take longer to stop the car, plus you will have less time to react in case of an accident.