Prepare Yourself and Your Car for Winter
The extreme cold of winter takes its toll on your car. Don't be caught unprepared if you break down. Inspect and repair your car before the extreme cold sets in.
Here's a checklist of things you can do to prepare for the winter freeze:
- Ice scrapers and snow brushes should be kept in the house if an overnight storm is predicted. This will allow you to remove snow and ice before having to open the car doors or trunk. Keep a spare ice scraper in the car as well.
- Window and lock de-icer should also be kept in the house. Keeping additional de-icers at work is also a good idea.
- Windshield wiper blades should be capable of completely clearing the windshield in three swipes. Replace the blades if cleaning the edge of the blade doesn't help. Winter-type blades prevent snow from jamming in the blade's center and are best for driving in snow.
- Washer fluid should be topped off frequently. Don't wait until you run out of fluid and the windshield is covered with salt. Have the defroster on with the heat to keep the fluid from freezing in extreme cold.
- Inside window surfaces must be extra clean to reduce surface fog formation and to speed the defogging process. Use the air conditioner with heat to dehumidify the cabin for quicker defogging of all windows.
- Engine coolant or antifreeze must be tested to ensure freeze protection to at least -30 degrees Fahrenheit. If it looks rusty or has been there for more than two years, change the antifreeze to restore the rust inhibitors and water pump lubricant. A professional power flush will remove any harmful grit that could cause premature water pump failure.
- Engine oil should always be changed at least according to manufacturer's recommended intervals. As winter approaches, the oil's thickness is very important. Oil that does not have a "W" in its thickness rating (i.e. 10W-30) might make the engine crank too slow to start. Check your owner's manual for the recommended thickness for the coldest temperature expected in your region.
- Automotive transmission fluid should be full, not leaking, and should not have a brown, burnt appearance. Transmissions get a workout when a vehicle gets stuck in the snow. If the manufacturer's recommended transmission oil change is close, get it done as a preventive measure.
- Lights, including high beams, turn signals, and brake lights must be in working condition, and headlights must be aimed correctly. Keep the lights clean for maximum visibility.
- Tire treads must have at least 2/32" depth in every groove. If the tread is wearing differently between the edges and the middle tread, check the tire pressure. If one side is wearing more than the other, it's time for a wheel alignment. The deeper the tread grooves, the better the traction in snow and the higher the resistance to hydroplaning in water. Tire chains are helpful, if legal where you live.
- Brakes should be inspected at least twice a year. The best times are just before winter and summer to prevent problems in extreme temperatures.
- Have the exhaust system inspected before winter. Exhaust system leaks can be lethal if you are stuck on ice or snow and the engine is running.
- Tune up an engine that is not running perfectly, or it will be harder to start during the winter. Have any problems diagnosed and repaired before the onset of winter.
- An emergency kit should include battery jumper cables, a flashlight, matches, and a 'Help' sign. In colder climates, include a candle, winter blanket, chocolate candy (for energy), shovel, and kitty litter or sand for traction.
- Battery check ups should take place before winter, as this is a very stressful period for batteries.