Winter is coming. With the joy of the holidays and family togetherness also comes the challenges of having to drive on treacherous roads in the bitter cold. You can do your best to avoid some dangerous driving situations by preparing your car for the season. Here are some tips on how to winterize your car.
1. Check Your Battery
The last thing you’d want is to be out on a cold winter’s day and come back to a dead car battery. To prevent an episode like this from happening, you should keep an eye on the cables to make sure that there are no cracks or breaks. For batteries older than three years, schedule an appointment with your go-to mechanic to have a thorough inspection completed. A great rule of thumb for checking your battery is to turn on your lights before you start your engine. If they get brighter when you turn your car on, then there’s probably an issue that should be diagnosed by a professional.
2. Top Off Your Fluids
Inspect your coolant, wiper fluid, oil, and brake fluid for the winter. Of those, your coolant is of the most importance because it keeps other fluid in your radiator from freezing. It’s a mix of the aptly named antifreeze and water. You may even consider switching to a thinner oil in the winter months as cold temperatures cause oil to thicken up. For safety, replace your current wiper fluid with a freeze-resistant formula to make sure that your vision remains clear in all weather conditions. Finally, be sure to check that your brake fluid is at the proper level.
3. Replace Your Wipers
We’ve already mentioned wiper fluid, but the wipers themselves also need to be in top condition to handle all the winter weather coming your way. Experts suggest that you replace your wipers every six months to a year, depending on their performance. The addition of the accumulation of ice as well as the salt and sand used on the street can cause your wipers to wear down quicker during this season. As a precaution, if your wipers are more than six months old, grab a new set.
4. Inspect Your Tires
You can’t completely winterize your car without inspecting your tires. They should have the correct balance of tread and air pressure. On the coldest of days, you may even get into your car and see the tire pressure light come on because of the low temperature. In the winter, get in the habit of checking your tires on a weekly basis. Generally, all-weather tires will serve you well for the type of precipitation that falls in the Towson area.
5. Build an Emergency Kit
A winter emergency kit — never be caught in the cold without one. Gather a collection of tools and resources so that you’re always prepared for the worst. Your winter emergency kit should include:
- A heavy blanket
- Small shovel
- Jumper cables
- First aid kit
This kit may literally be a lifesaver if you ever get stuck in the snow or ice. Remember to stay in your car, turn on your emergency lights, and call for assistance.
6. Keep the Tank Full
Always keep your gas tank at least half full. In the winter, condensation that collects in the empty space in your tank will freeze and cause your fuel line to freeze as well. This results in trouble starting your car. You also never want to get caught with a low tank in the winter, just in case there’s bad weather while you’re away from home.
7. Check Your Brakes
Stopping distances on snow and icy roads can be up to 10 times longer than on dry streets. With that figure in mind, you want to do all your can to assist your vehicle in maintaining a safe distance between you and the car ahead of you. Before we get into the full swing of winter, have your brakes checked. If necessary, have your pads replaced and, as previously mentioned, make sure that the fluid is adequate.
8. Protect The Paint
To winterize your car isn’t all about safety, it also includes protecting the appearance of your vehicle. The constant onslaught of slush, ice, salt, and sand can leave your paint susceptible to dullness, rust, and oxidation. After your next wash, add a layer of liquid or paste car wax to protect it from the elements.
9. Treat Your Doors
Don’t get locked out of your car. We’ve all experienced that moment when we find ourselves tugging a little harder than normal to open the door. After a wash, apply a light layer of lubricant to the edges of your doors and trunk — and keyholes for older vehicles.
10. Regular Maintenance
Don’t skip your regular oil changes, tire rotations, and other regular maintenance that you normally schedule for your car. In the winter, it will be even more important for you to keep up with those good habits to ensure that your vehicle will remain safe throughout the season.