It’s nearly that time again, when long hot days turn into cool nights and overcast skies. As temperatures drop, it’s important to remember that your car needs care, too. Checking the battery, the tire pressure and tread, as well as belts and hoses will make for smoother winter driving.
Tire Pressure. When the air turns colder tires lose their pressure at a faster rate than during the summer. Keep an air pressure gauge on hand and check the tires regularly and inflate when necessary. Improperly inflated tires can reduce control of the vehicle in virtually every weather and road condition.
Brakes. Winter driving can be a pain for many reasons. You’ll find yourself braking more than usual to test the road condition and to modify your speed a little better in adverse conditions. This will take a bigger toll on the condition of your brakes. The increase in salt and moisture can also cause your rotors to rust. Get your brakes checked by your trusted mechanic not just at the beginning of winter but halfway through, too.
Tires. Tires wear out; it’s just what they do. If they are in good shape and have proper tread (you can do the penny tread test or ask a professional) you can have them rotated before winter hits. If their tread is less than acceptable, get them replaced to avoid spinning out and to have a better grip on the road during snowy conditions. Always put better tires in the rear of the car.
Wiper Blades. Once the snow and ice starts accumulating on your car, your wiper blades are going to be getting a good workout. It’s best, of course, not to run the blades over ice or else you’ll tear them up and you’ll be cursed with a giant blur swatch you can’t see through. Do your best to defrost and de-ice the windshield before running the blades. They’re fairly inexpensive so consider having an extra set in your car so you can replace them when necessary.
Gas Tank. Over the winter, if your gas tank is kept at lower than half full moisture will build up in it. This will dilute (expensive) fuel as well as put a strain on the vehicle’s various pumps and parts. If the moisture freezes, even more damage can be done. So, think of it this way, the more gas you have in the tank at all times the less space and opportunity for water to build up.
Brake & Windshield Fluids. Start the winter with fresh brake fluid. As winter progresses, water molecules and other debris can make the fluid dirty which isn’t good for the car. Windshield washer fluid that is specifically suited for winter (temperatures well below zero) will help keep your visibility clear even in the diciest of conditions.
Battery. Few things are more stressful than getting stranded somewhere in the middle of winter because your car battery died. Cold weather adds to their strain. Be sure the terminals are free of corrosion. Take it to your mechanic to have the voltage checked so you know for sure if you should have the battery replaced or not.
Emergency Kit. You can do everything possible to avoid an accident or breakdown but the truth of the matter is – they happen. Put together an emergency kit to keep in your car for those ‘just in case’ times.
- Cat litter (for traction)
- First aid kit
- Snow shovel (collapsible to save room)
- Jumper cables
- Ice scraper
- Blanket; mittens; hats
- Extra cell phone charger
- Non-perishable snacks
- Bottled water
Door Locks. Most people these days use key fobs to gain entry into their vehicles, but it’s a good idea to maintain the door locks anyway. Key fob batteries die, get lost, etc. and you’ll be stuck not able to get into your car. Lubricate the door locks (including the trunk cylinder) so they don’t corrode and to make it easier if you need to use them during the winter.
Belts & Hoses. You can make a general survey of belts and hoses when you have the hood open for other reasons, but if you’re unsure what you’re looking for take the car to your mechanic. Pay attention to the noises your car makes which can indicate loose or broken belts or hoses.
Before winter hits, give your car some TLC by checking all of its components. You’ll feel more secure and confident even when the snow is flying. Finding the cheapest car insurance policy that adequately meets your needs will also help you feel braced and ready for the onslaught of cold and snow.