When the weather transitions to cold, snowy, icy, and slushy, ensuring your vehicle is up for the changes will help keep you and your passengers safe. Here are nine steps you can take to winterize your vehicle.
1. Put together a car winter emergency kit
Being prepared with the items in this kit could save your life. Here are items we recommend keeping with you:
- Jumper cables
- Tool kit
- Spare tire
- Car jack
- Wheel wrench
- Extra flashlight batteries
- Drinking water
- Nonperishable foods (nuts, dried fruit, hard candy, etc.)
- First aid kit
- Reflective triangles
- Reflective vest
- Cell phone charger
- Rain poncho
- Warm clothing
Being prepared with these things can help you either fix the problem to get you somewhere safe or they can keep you alive and comfortable while you wait for emergency towing services to come to you. Hopefully, you will never need to use these, but having them in your trunk will give you peace of mind as you travel through the snow.
2. Check your tires
Having quality tires is always important, but when you anticipate driving in slick conditions, having good tires is a matter of life and death. Check the tread on your tires to make sure you have at least 2/32 of an inch of tread.
Low tread will increase your chances of sliding and hydroplaning and diminish overall performance, so your vehicle will take longer to stop. It’s dangerous to drive a car with little tread left in the winter.
3. Replace the oil
Regularly changing the oil in your vehicle is an essential habit to have all year long, but you’ll definitely want to make sure your oil is up to par when winter comes around. In cold weather, your engine has to work harder to run. It needs an adequate amount of oil to keep it properly lubricated and not strain the battery.
Also note that during the cold winter months, manufacturers generally suggest using a lighter and thinner oil, since cold weather thickens the oil. Check out your owner’s manual for specific recommendations.
4. Utilize the all-wheel or four-wheel drive option
All-wheel drive and four-wheel drive both improve a vehicle’s performance in the snow. These systems increase traction, which will, in turn, increase your chance of staying safe. Refer to your owner’s manual to properly activate the four- or all-wheel drive, as incorrectly starting it can cause expensive damage to your vehicle.
5. Check the tire pressure
Did you know the tire pressure in your tires changes with the weather? Whenever temperatures drop, so does your tire pressure. Regularly check the pressure to make sure you have enough air in each tire. Different vehicles have different recommendations for optimal tire pressure; check your owner’s manual for the best air pressure for your vehicle.
6. Assess the antifreeze
Antifreeze, or coolant, prevents expensive and extensive damage to the engine by keeping it from overheating. It dissipates the heat from the engine through the radiator. It also resists freezing, which comes in handy when the temperatures drop, and the vehicle is exposed to cold temperatures for extended periods of time.
If your car needs more coolant/antifreeze, reference your owner’s manual for the correct kind. Also, take note of the ratio of coolant to water, so your engine is getting exactly what it needs to run at its best.
7. Take a look under the hood
Check the battery. If the temperature is lower than 80 degrees Fahrenheit, your battery is not working in its ideal conditions. Cold weather is hard on batteries. The reactions that occur within the battery are slower, so the battery output is less than when it is warmer. Test the battery to make sure it will get through the cold months.
Belts and hoses can weaken and wear down, especially with weather changes. Checking these parts periodically will help you catch a problem before you’re stranded.
8. Check the wiper blades
You don’t want to get stuck driving in a blizzard without a way to wipe away the falling snow. Check the wiper blades on your vehicle. If they are brittle or cracking, or if they are streaky when they wipe water away, replace them before the snow starts. And while you’re thinking about windshield wipers, top off your windshield fluid.
9. Test the brakes
Slowing down in icy conditions can be scary with working brakes. Slowing down in icy conditions with brakes that aren’t in good condition could be deadly. Whatever the weather, periodically check the brakes on your car to help you arrive at your destination safely.
If you take the time to prepare your vehicle now, it will not only help prevent a call to your local towing company later, but it could also save a life.