Top 7 Ways to Winterize Your Car
As winter approaches throughout much of the world, it’s a good time to think about prepping your car for the cold winter travel months. And even if you live in warm weather climates, it is still a good idea to check these items at least once a year to keep your car in top shape for driving. If you’re a Silver Sager, you also remember the days when starting your engine and letting it run for awhile to warm up was considered the standard during colder seasons. However, engines have come a long way since then! You no longer need to let the engine warm up for fifteen minutes before driving. Yet, it is okay to start the car for a minute or two and let the engine oil warm up before zooming off. We happen to love the automatic car starters that can be installed by a professional mechanic. This allows you to start the car from inside your home or office while you get your winter gear on and gives the engine a few minutes to warm up the car so it’s not an icebox getting inside. So whether you live in sunny Sacramento or snowy Syracuse, check out these ten tips to prep your car for the winter months.
- Check Your Tire Pressure. Tire pressure changes with the change in temperatures. Hot air causes air pressure in your tire to inflate and cold air tends to decrease air pressure in your tires. It’s smart to check your air pressure each season, especially with the onset of cold weather. One hint: inflate tire pressure to the tires recommendations not the recommendations on the door panel of your vehicle. Some climates that experience heavy snow and frigid winters also recommend that you switch to specific winter tires over all-season tires for better traction and stability during the cold snowy months ahead.
- Check Your Battery. As the weather changes, your car battery may require more power and current to get and keep the engine started. You can’t simply look at a battery and know it needs to be replaced. We recommend that you have a mechanic perform a battery load test to see if your battery is fully charged, needs to be replaced, needs to be recharged or needs distilled water. Even better, Auto Zone will do this service for FREE and provide you with a print out so you know what the actual results are. Nothing worse than a dead battery when you’re ready to drive somewhere!
- Check Your Fluids. A simple but often overlooked tip is to check your window washer fluid, anti-freeze fluid and oil levels. In colder climates, antifreeze window washer fluid is a must. So fill your Winter wiper fluid instead of the typical blue wiper fluid. Check out Rain X and Prestone for this special winterized windshield fluid. Older cars often required maintanance of the coolant system, anti-freeze. However, newer cars today, are typically maintenance free. However, check your car manual to be sure especially if you’re driving an older car. Oil lubricates the engine and helps everything run smoothly. Cold weather can reduce the effectiveness of this process because the viscosity of the oil gets thicker; which hinders the ability of the oil to circulate effectively through the engine. If you haven’t changed your oil in awhile, it’s always best to start out with fresh thin oil for the winter months. A few bucks can save you hundreds of dollars downstream.
4. Switch to Winter Wipers. Of course if you live in Sacramento, you most likely don’t need to switch your blades. But if you live anywhere that gets a lot of snow and ice, winter wipers are designed specifically to help prevent them from sticking and icing on your car. Save your old blades, but switch to winter blades until spring returns. Switching your wiper blades is easy to do and most car owners can do this themselves. Auto Zone, Walmart, even Amazon sells winter wipers. Remember to return to spring wipers after the winter because the winter wipers are heavier and put more load on the wiper motor.
5. Check Your Hoses, Belts and Wires. Cold temperatures can wreak havoc on hoses, belts, spark plugs and other devices. It’s worth the hour in labor to have your mechanic check out all the hoses, belts, spark plugs, wires and cables on your car before something breaks and leaves you stranded in a cold parking lot.
6. Keep Your Tank Half Full. Cars always run better with a full tank of gas but even more important to do so in the winter months. The more fuel in your tank, the less chance for condensation to build in the gas line – which will help prevent freeze ups. Moreover, if you didn’t follow tips one through 5, a full tank of gas will keep you and your grandchildren warm if something else goes wrong!
7. Keep an Emergency Kit. Last year, our town in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania was hit with a couple of unexpected winter storms that had drivers stranded in their cars for hours on the highway. An emergency kit would have been quite handy. What are some good things to keep with you at all times? We recommend buying a fabric toolbox at Home Depot and filling it with: a) a pair of jumper cables, b) small bottle of washer fluid, c) food that will keep like beef jerkey, packaged nuts or crackers and bottled water, d) a warm blanket or two (we keep several in my car and have often used them for spontaneous picnics but also warmth when stranded), e) a flashlight and batteries (not put together as they can errode over time), f) first aid kit, g) gloves-these came in handy when we helped rescue several stranded colleagues during the storms last year, h) an old pair of boots-you never know, i) a bag of dog food, cat litter or bird seed. An old trick growing up in Syracuse, NY to throw down if you get stuck in ice or snow to give your tires something to grab onto and j) anything else that will make you feel safe and comfortable in the event of an emergency.
If you’re not used to driving on the winter roads, stay home and wait for the storm to pass, the roads to clear and for you to feel safe driving out there. Let us know if you have any other ideas, we’d love to hear from you!
Art credits by: “Most Memorable Driving Lesson” by Roiuky (Sweden) and “Winter Stock 9” by Aretestock (US).
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