Winter can wreak havoc on car, especially if you live where the temperatures are constantly at freezing or below. Thankfully there are several things you can do to prepare you car for the cold weather and keep it running. Below are some quick tips for winterizing your car.
Using the Correct Oil
One of the first steps towards winterizing your car is to check the oil and other fluids. When the temperature drops, the oil in your car’s engine begins to thicken. This makes it harder for the engine to turn over. Using the proper oil in your car can make a world of difference.
Although you should check your owner’s manual, generally, most cars use a multi-viscosity oil that has a “W” in the viscosity index. The ‘W’ indicates that the oil is formulated for winter use. The most common formulas for modern engines are 5W-20, 5W-30 and 10W-30; but again, always follow the manufacturer’s recommendation.
Also, whenever you have the oil changed, have the filter changed as well. This will help ensure that the flow of oil is at its maximum. For people who live where the winters are bitterly cold, investing in an engine block heater could be a great investment.
Check Your Coolant
Most vehicles should have their cooling system flushed at least every two years (again, check your owner’s manual). If it is time for your car to have the system flushed, do so before the cold weather sets in. Make sure the system is refilled with a mixture of antifreeze and water (most often a 50/50 ratio) which will keep the coolant from freezing when temperatures are below the freezing mark.
Check Belts and Hoses
While checking your coolant, you should also check your radiator and heater hoses. Look for cracks or leaks as extreme cold can cause rubber parts to become brittle and fail. The hoses should feel firm, yet pliable when you squeeze them; if they feel overly soft or brittle, they most likely need to be replaced.
Go ahead and inspect all other belts and hoses as cold weather. Check for any signs of wear and tear and have them replaced if needed.
Inspect Your Battery
Nothing is worse than getting in your car on a frigid winter’s day only to find it won’t start. A car’s battery capacity is reduced by cold weather. Add in the fact that during cold weather your engine requires more current from the battery to start, and you have the perfect storm – plus a car that won’t start. 😉
Luckily, a thorough inspection of the battery, terminals, cables and fluid will help ensure that your car is ready for the winter.
First of all, check the terminals for any corrosion. You should also make sure that the terminals fit snugly without any loose connections. Then, look over the battery cables for any cracks or breaks.
You should also check your battery fluid by uncovering the refill hole (or holes). If the level is below the bottom of the cap, refill with distilled water.
While you’re inspecting your battery, look around for the manufacture date. Knowing how old the battery is can clue you in to when it will begin to lose charge.
Lastly, have a mechanic run a battery load test to see if you need to replace the battery.
Inspect and/or Replace Tires
Inspecting and/or replacing your tires is an important step towards winterizing your car. Low air pressure and worn tires are especially dangerous on wet or slick roads, as both reduce traction.
First check each tire for any signs of worn tread or damage. Tread depth should always be at least 4/32 inch deep. Anything less than this, and it’s time for new tires.
While there are several ways to check tread depth, the easiest is by using a penny. Simply insert a penny into your tire’s tread groove with Lincoln’s head upside down and facing you. If you can see all of Lincoln’s head, it’s time to replace your tires.
You should also check your tire pressure. Properly inflated tires ensure the best possible contact between the road and the tires, giving you the traction you need for wintery road conditions. Look in your owner’s manual for the recommended PSI for your particular vehicle.
Keep in mind that cold weather causes air pressure in your tires to drop. In general, for every 10 degree drop in temperature, your tire’s air pressure will drop about 1psi. So make sure you are checking your tire pressure on a regular basis.
Don’t forget to inspect your spare tire as well.
Change Wiper Blades and Check Wiper Fluid
Driving during the winter is already dangerous enough without having to worry about poor visibility due to old wiper blades. And the build up of sleet, ice, snow and salt from the roads, on your windshield can damage blades quickly. Therefore, when winterizing your car, make sure you inspect your wipers and replace them if needed.
In general, wiper blades are only good for about a year. If your wiper blades look frayed or worn, or are smearing more than they are clearing, then it’s time to replace them. If you live where you get a lot of winter precipitation, consider buying wiper blades that are specially designed for winter weather.
Also, be sure to top off your wiper fluid reservoir with a brand that has a low freezing temperature. Freeze-resistant wiper fluid will go a long way towards keeping your windshield clean and your vision clear.
Pack an Emergency Kit
Keeping a car emergency kit in your trunk is a great idea – especially during the winter. Items such as road flares, a jack, a lug wrench, and a first aid kit should be at hand no matter the season. Be sure to check your emergency kit on a regular basis, and update it with seasonal items.
While there are lots of great pre-packaged car emergency kits for sale, you can save some money by making your own. Some items to keep in your winter safety kit include:
- Blanket, leather gloves, and hat.
- Bag of kitty litter or sand – to help if your tires get stuck in the snow or slush.
- Ice scraper and brush.
- Small shovel.
- Safe and leak-proof container of coolant.
- Non-perishable snacks.
While many of these simple maintenance tasks can go a long way is winterizing your car, it’s best to have a certified mechanic such as those at Humes Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge make sure your car is ready for winter.