While the days grow shorter and holiday vacations peep around the corner, snow, sleet, and rain can make driving pretty uncomfortable.
On top of that, cold weather can be really hard on your vehicle, so it’s vital that your car is up to the challenge.
With that in mind, here are some pointers to get your car winter-ready:
1. Wash Your Car
What? Wash your car in winter?
Washing your car regularly in any season will help prolong its paint job. But in winter, the rain, snow, and road salt can really cause havoc, not only on the finish, but also buildup and rust metal parts too!
If you don’t want to deal with it yourself, you can always go to a car wash service and get it done. Either way, make sure to keep the grime off your car.
2. Replace Your Wipers And Keep The Washer Fluid Full
Fully functional windshield wipers become incredibly critical when you’re caught in heavy rain or snowstorm. Switch to new wipers if they’re starting to create streaks across your view. You can even get wipers customized to the kind of weather you expect to face.
Plenty of snow?
Get wipers with their own heating element. These’ll work great with a heated windshield.
Expect to face a downpour?
Install wipers with a hydrophobic agent that’ll leave a coating on your windshield to help bead water droplets.
And don’t forget to keep your wiper fluid topped up. A single snowstorm can empty your reservoir faster than you realize.
3. Consider Switching To Winter Tires
If you drive in frigid winters, switching to snow tires is a good idea. While all-season tires may work, they won’t give you the maximum maneuverability and protection when you have to face snowy, sleet-coated roads.
Skiing can be fun, but it’s not something you want to do with your car. Winter tires are formulated to resist hardening in freezing temperatures and give you better traction in ice, slush, and snow.
4. Check Your Tire Pressure
For every 10oF drop in temperature, your tire pressure drops by 1 PSI (pound per square inch). And that’s happening while your car isn’t even moving.
If your vehicle doesn’t have a tire pressure monitor system, it’s a good idea to have a tire gauge handy. Even better, bring a portable air compressor to pump your tires when the pressure drops.
5. Keep Your Fuel Tank At Least Half Filled
Don’t let your gas tank gauge drop below half in winter.
A full tank reduces condensation, which helps prevent fuel line freeze-ups when the temperature drops. Also, if you get stranded in a snowdrift, your car might be the only heated refuge available until help comes. So fill up often!
6. Get Your Car Serviced
With the onset of harsh weather, it helps to get a professional checkup and have your vehicle parts winter-prepped:
- Battery: It takes more battery juice to crank your car in low temperatures, so get one that has at least 600 CCA for optimum winter performance.
- Brakes: Make sure your brakes are at peak performance to cope with slippery, slushy winter roads.
- Motor oil: Use the correct oil viscosity rating, and get regular oil changes to avoid viscosity problems.
- Cooling system: You’ll need the appropriate ratio of antifreeze-to-water to prevent freezing and corrosion. This ratio will typically fall between 50/50 to 70/30.
- Spark plugs, belting, hoses, cables: While these aren’t necessarily affected by cold temperatures, you wouldn’t want any of them to fail and leave you marooned in winter weather.
7. Prepare A Winter Safety Kit
You never know what can happen while winter driving, so it doesn’t hurt to prepare for emergencies. Here are some things you keep in your vehicle for that ‘just-in-case’ situation:
- Jumper cables
- Tire inflator
- Tire patch kit
- Tire pressure gauge
- Triangle reflectors
- Road flares
- Ice scraper and brush
- First aid kit
- Drinking water and snacks
- Gloves and blankets
- Cellphone and charger
8. If Storing, Keep Your Car Safe From Elements
Snow and ice aren’t good for your car. If you want to store your car in winter, keeping it safe from the elements is the most important thing.
If you have a garage, then great — store it there and try to maintain a decent temperature. Otherwise, use a car cover to shield it from rain, ice, and snow.
Also, you’ll need to keep the tires well inflated, and the fluids (fuel, coolant, brake fluid) topped up. Run the engine every week or two to keep the battery charged, or use a battery tender if you aren’t near your car for some time.