Preparing & Maintaining Your Vehicle for Winter Weather

by John Tenuto

in Guides

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Winter is coming and its time that your vehicle is put to the test. While summer can push us humans to the limit, winter is hardest on our car. The cold season brings with it all sorts of challenges for our cars, from cold starts to extreme temperatures changes that the car endures for short trips around town. Thankfully there are fairly simple steps to prepare and maintain your car until spring comes again.

The Basics

  • Check Tires– This means that your tread is around 3mm deep. Also make sure to check tire pressure. Cold weather will reduce the PSI in your tires. Don’t forget your spare tire as well!
  • Kick ice off wheel wells- Ice in the wheel wells could reduce your steering abilities, and put unnecessary wear and tear on your tires. Keep them clear always. I keep a rubber mallet in my car for this.
  • Keep your car clean- The salt and chemicals that keep our roadways clear of ice also wreak havoc on cars. Rust can eat your car quickly. Frequent a car wash and make sure that the undercarriage is cleaned too.
  • Keep the tank full- Although it’s not something you like to think about, you should always keep in mind you may be stranded in the winter time. A full tank of gas could save your life.

Visibility and Glass Considerations

  • Invest in a good ice scraper- You’re going to use it every day so get a good one. Ones with brooms attached are always better for days with snowfall.
  • Don’t use hot water to defrost- You may think your saving time, but the extreme temperature change will crack your windshield.
  • Tint your windows- Your car isn’t going to stay in good condition if you’re blinded by the snow and wreck! DIY window tint is easy to apply and your eyes will thank you.
  • Check window washer fluid- Winter is the time for oily sludge to be sprayed all over your windshield. I’ve gone through my entire reservoir on a 4 hour drive once. Now I always keep a backup gallon in the truck too.
  • Put your wipers up- When your car sets for overnight or a longer period of time during the day, it’s always good to put your wipers up. They won’t freeze to your windshield so you can scrape off and get driving faster.
  • Maintain lights- Lights can be either guide your way through a snow storm or blind you. Many people swear by yellow headlights in the wintertime. Fog lights are also a great investment if you can.

Under the Hood

  • Check Antifreeze levels- This may be the most important piece of winter car preparation. Check levels often!
  • Check other fluids for: normal level, color, viscosity- Again, Check all these fluid levels often. Give your car the best chance to operate in harsh conditions.
  • Make sure your fan can blow- Snow can clog up a fan and make it unable to spin, especially if you have to bust through the occasional snowdrift. Snow can also get into your engine and cause it to overheat. This will kill your car.
  • Check your hoses- Hoses can easily crack in the harsh conditions of winter. Anyone can easily check these with a flashlight.

Have an emergency kit

  • I always have an emergency kit in all my cars and I modify it to the season. You may never need it but if you do, it will be the best investment you’ve ever made in your life. Put your own together instead of buying one from the store. It will allow you to personalize it to your own situation and it will probably save you money too. Here are the items that I keep it my emergency kit.
  • Bottles of water- Keep these in the cab (frozen water does you no good).
  • Energy bars- In case you get stranded… or hungry.
  • Flashlight- Make it a big strong one with extra batteries.
  • First-Aid kit- You should always have this in your car no matter the season.
  • Tow strap- This is good to have even if you need a tow out of a drift in a parking lot.
  • Flares- Visibility is key in a roadside emergency situation.
  • Extra engine fluids- This includes: premixed antifreeze, engine oil, transmission fluid, windshield wiper fluid.
  • Blankets- Warmth will save your life in a winter emergency situation.
  • Jumper cables- Dead batteries are no match for a good jump.
  • Snow shovel- Sometimes you’ll have to dig yourself out and you’ll be glad to use a shovel instead of your hands.

Smart is Safe

As always, good judgment is better than any emergency contingency plan. Sometimes winter conditions dictate that you don’t use your car at all in the winter. Only you know when it is safe enough to negotiate the roadways. These tips will give you the best possible chance for safe vehicle operation this winter. Be safe and enjoy the magic that is winter!

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