Driving in Winter Takes Preparation
Walking in a winter wonderland is a beautiful sight but safely driving through the glistening snow can rattle your nerves if you and your car aren’t prepared for winter. Be sure to have your vehicle winterized before harsh weather arrives and especially before embarking on road trips for the winter holidays.
The following steps will help get your vehicle ready for winter:
- Clean, flush and put new antifreeze in the cooling system. The owner’s manual will have usage specifications but the mixture of antifreeze (coolant) and water inside your vehicle’s radiator is typically 50:50. As a reminder, don’t make the mistake of adding 100 percent antifreeze, as full-strength antifreeze actually has a lower freeze point than when mixed with water. In the process, check containers, belts, hoses, the pressure caps and thermostat.
- Check heaters, defrosters and wipers to ensure they are working properly. Wiper blades that are cracked or torn, or that chatter, streak and don’t properly clean your windshield should be replaced. When changing the blades, the windshield wiper system nozzles should be cleaned and adjusted if necessary, and the windshield washer reservoir should be filled.
- Check the battery and charging system for optimum performance. Cold weather is hard on batteries and unfortunately, batteries don’t always give warning signs before they fail completely. If your vehicle’s battery is three years old or more, it’s wise to replace it. When choosing a replacement, make sure the new one has adequate capacity for your exact make and model.
- Check the tire tread depth and tire pressure. Tires lose pressure when temperatures drop.
- Your vehicle’s engine oil should be changed every 3,000 to 5,000 miles depending on your vehicle make and model, how you drive and the conditions in which you drive. Dirty oil can spell trouble, especially in winter.
- Schedule a tune-up as winter magnifies existing problems, such as pings, hard starts, sluggish performance or rough idling. A routine tune-up will restore a vehicle back to its normal operating state, and contribute to the overall efficiency of the engine and emissions system.
- Check the brakes. This braking system is the vehicle’s most important safety item and brakes are a normal wear item that sooner or later will need to be replaced.
- Check the exhaust system for carbon monoxide leaks, which can be especially dangerous during cold weather driving when windows are closed. Regular exhaust system checks are critical to maintain a safe vehicle.
- Keep the gas tank half full at all times to decrease the chances of moisture forming in the gas lines and possibly freezing.
- Before heading to the snow, check the tire pressure of the spare tire and pack an emergency kit with the following items: ice scraper and snow brush, jumper cables, flashlight, flares, blanket, extra clothes, candles/matches, bottled water, dry food snacks and needed medication.
It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holidays and overlook getting a vehicle ready for winter. A vehicle that is ready for winter road conditions and colder temperatures will likely be safer and more reliable, giving motorists one less thing to worry about when heading out for the holidays.