Winter is coming… Okay, now that we got that very necessary Game of Thrones reference out of the way, seriously—winter is coming!
There are a lot of ways that you will need to tackle the annual onslaught of cold air and snow, like taking winter clothes out of storage and winterizing your house, but one critical part of our daily lives that often gets left untreated when the winter air hits is our cars.
Winterizing your car is an important part of basic car maintenance, and skipping the annual routine of ensuring that your car is ready to handle the cold months ahead may cost you big down the line. Preparing your car to tackle the cold is easy, and only a few items will need to be checked by a professional mechanic during a regular maintenance appointment.
Tip 1: Check Your Tire Pressure
Just as the summer heat can affect your tire pressure, so can the cold. Cold air is more condensed than warm air, so tire pressure is often lower in the wintertime. Tire pressure drops an average of 1 psi for every 10 degrees the temperature drops.
Tip 2: Check or Change Your Tires
If you live in an area that expects regular, heavy snowfall, be sure to speak with your mechanic or tire store about adding snow tires or chains to your car. However, if you live in a place that suffers from chill but not snow, be sure to check your tire tread and wear. Black ice and other hazardous road conditions can appear out of nowhere in the winter, so arm yourself with the traction you need and be sure that your tires are up to snuff.
Tip 3: Check Your Battery
Did you know that the cold can decrease your battery’s power in the winter? Some estimates say that, compared to summertime power, car batteries can lose almost half of their power in the winter. Worse still, in the winter your engine requires more power from your battery to start, making winter a peak time for battery failures. Take a trip to your local auto supply retailer and get your battery a load test to see if it needs to be replaced before you hit the road.
Tip 4: Check Your Antifreeze
Your local auto parts store carries antifreeze testers, so grab one and test the mixture of your radiator’s fluid. The appropriate mix is 50-50: 50% water to 50% antifreeze to prevent coolant from freezing.
Tip 5: Change Your Wiper Blades and Check Your Wiper Fluid
Anyone who has driven in the winter knows that your windshield can go from completely clean to almost impossible to see through in a matter of minutes. Winter precipitation and road salts can often worsen the situation, so wiper fluid and blade maintenance is vital to keeping you safe on the road.
Unless you have replaced your wiper blades in the past few months, now is the time to change those blades. Depending on where you live, you may want to opt for winter-ready blades instead. Top off your wiper fluid to be certain that you have everything you need for a clean, clear windshield no matter the weather.
Tip 6: Change Your Oil
Cold weather impacts your oil too by reducing its viscosity and effectiveness. Your engine needs smooth, clean oil to run at during critical weather, so be sure that you’re not leaving thick, gunky oil in your car when your engine needs the most lubrication.
Tip 7: Have a Mechanic Check Your Hoses and Belts
Your belts and hoses are more likely to be weak and snap during the winter because of the effect the cold temperatures have on rubber. A simple mechanic’s maintenance check can change out those old and worn hoses and belts, which may very well prevent you from freezing on the side of the road while you wait for a tow truck.
Tip 8: Stock Your Car with Winter and Emergency Supplies
Accidents can happen at any time, and the best way to stay safe is to have the essentials you need to get by should the worst happen. Simple winter emergency supplies that you may consider keeping in your car include spare blankets, road flares, a folding shovel, and an ice scraper.
Some additional emergency items you may want to consider keeping in your car are a portable air compressor, a radio, a flashlight, extra coolant, extra engine oil, and a good pair of boots.