Winter Car Care Tips to Remember

Winter weather for many people means snow, ice, and freezing cold temperatures. Is your car ready to deal with all of this? Just as you prepare yourself and your house to face the coming cold months, so should you attend to your car. The last thing you want to happen is to get stuck on the side of the road in the dead of winter, or worse, to meet an accident from car or engine failure. Winterize your car with these practical guidelines.

DO: Make sure your car battery can survive the cold months

When the temperatures drop, your car battery also loses cranking power. The cold months can significantly shorten your car battery’s life so you should not risk driving with a dying battery. Take your car to a technician to check for battery performance. If it is already leaking or the cables are corroded, get a replacement. Check for its lifetime rating; if it is getting close to expiration, it is better to get a new one than to let it run its normal course.

DO: Check tire pressure and test the tire tread

Low tire pressure means reduced traction, which is not safe especially on slippery roads. Always check for tire pressure before driving out during the winter. You may want to consider getting winter tires which are specially designed to provide better traction and handling in snow and ice. They are more expensive than regular tires but they are a good investment especially if you are always on the road during the cold months. It is also important to check the tire tread depth. The deeper the tread, the better your tires will hold in icy surfaces.

DO: Keep an emergency repair and survival kit

It always pays to be prepared. Even if you are confident that your car is in good running condition, take the extra precaution of packing a survival and repair kit in the trunk. The American Automobile Association (AAA) recommends the following items that should be part of a winter survival gear for your car: ice scraper and brush, tools and flashlight, jumper cables, tire traction material like sand or cat litter, flares, and shovel. Prepare a separate bag for your personal necessities, such as an extra coat, blanket, food, a bottle of water, gloves and hat, and first aid kit. You may also consider joining an organization that provides 24-hour roadside assistance and keep the number in your cellphone.

DO: Keep your car fluids in check

While it is important to regularly check the levels of car fluids, you should pay more attention to them during the winter when there is a greater possibility for freezing or drying up. Go through all the parts that run on fluids: transmission, brake, windshield washer, power steering, even the engine oil and coolant. Refer to your owner’s manual for information on proper levels to maintain. Pay specific attention to the coolant; you want to make sure that the proper combination levels of water and antifreeze are maintained. If the ratio of water to antifreeze is not correct, the mixture will freeze and will eventually ruin your engine.

DON’T: Neglect to clean your car regularly

Many car owners think that just because it is winter it is a reasonable excuse not to wash the car regularly. It is not just about the appearance of your car. The paint and the tires require protection from the snow, ice, salt, and other chemicals that are on the road. Wash and soap your car to remove all dirt and hard ice that may have gotten stuck on any part. Also make sure to wipe it down thoroughly and to apply a coat of wax. While this may seem tedious, consider the time and money it will take to get a new paint job for your car when it gets eaten away by rust and chemicals.

DON’T: Drive until you have removed snow and ice from the car

It can be a hassle to clear the ice and snow off your car every time you need to drive it. However, this is something that can prevent a number of accidents from happening. Your view can be significantly obstructed if snow is left on the front and rear windshield. If you leave any large chunks of snow or ice on the roof or the tailgate of the car, there is a possibility that it can fly off and hit other cars that may be behind you. If your tires are also caked with snow, the tread won’t be able to hold onto the road and may cause your car to slip and swerve.

DON’T: Put off getting a tune-up

When winter approaches, it is wise to go for a car tune-up even if you believe that your car is not due for one for a few more months. You want a professional technician to give your car a good and thorough performance assessment. They can recommend parts that need to be replaced or repaired such as the brakes, the battery, the cooling and exhaust systems, spark plugs, and the engine. Get an oil change before the cold months hit. Consult your technician about using lower grade oil for the winter; in some cars, lower grade oil helps the engine perform better during the cold months.

DON’T: Ignore any warning lights

If you see any warning lights in your car, do not ignore them. While they may not necessarily mean that something is critically wrong, it is better to be cautious especially during the winter. Make sure that you know what the warning lights in your vehicle dashboard mean by referring to your manual. If you are out driving and a light comes on, drive to a nearest repair facility or gas station and check for the cause. Ask for assistance if you do not know what to look for.

Your car is the only thing that keeps you safe on the road in cold weather. Keep it protected from potentially damaging winter elements by paying attention especially to the small details. Even if you have insurance, it is better to go out knowing that you have taken all measures to prevent any damage to your car. Your car, and your wallet, will benefit from a little planning and foresight.