Driving in any environment takes upkeep and maintenance.
But keeping things moving when the temperature drops can be even trickier. So we've taken a look at the expert's top tips to winterize your car. And if you keep these steps in mind before the first frost, you'll be ahead of the game.
No one wants to walk out to a car covered in snow and ice. Even worse is finding that your battery won't start. And the worst of all possibilities is getting out on the road only to find you're slipping and sliding. Fortunately, there are a few simple tips that will keep these outcomes to a minimum.
Nothing can take all of the guesswork out of owning a car. But regularly paying attention to the basics make it a lot easier. Whether you live in a frigid climate or just deal with a little winter weather each year, you'll need to be prepared. Keep reading for the best steps you can take when as the cold starts to creep in this season.
A Bit About Winterizing Your Car
As you might imagine, these are not tips you'll need to remember during the summer heat. There are different things to keep in mind when the sun is beating down on you. But every time the thermometer drops, you're presented with a unique set of concerns. We'll get into what they are -- and how to deal with them -- in the instructions below.
What Does Winterizing Mean?
Basically, winterizing is a catch all term for getting your car (or anything else) ready for the cold. Just as you have to wrap up to keep warm before you step outside, your car needs some special attention. This is the season that presents the biggest challenges both on and off the road. But following the steps below will put you in the best position to tackle the cold.
Why Is It Important?
Maybe you're picturing ice covered roads that present obvious challenges to motorists. And yes, that is a major focus in learning how to winterize your car. But the challenges will extend to your driveway or garage, too. Because the cold weather can be an extra drain on your engine and many other components under the hood.
How to Winterize Your Car for the Season
1. Check Your Fluids
One of the most important fluids to remember when you winterize your car is antifreeze. That might make sense considering you're trying to prevent vital components from freezing. So this makes a good place to start when you lift the hood ahead as winter approaches. It's easy to test the mixture running through your car with a tester you can buy at almost any auto store. You should look for roughly equal parts antifreeze and water running through the radiator.
But it's not just this vital fluid that you'll want to keep a close eye on. Automotive oil is also affected by the weather. So make sure you've got the right viscosity not only for your car, but for your climate. The colder it gets, the thicker your oil can get. This makes it ineffective and can wreak havoc on your engine. Therefore, you'll want to make sure you have proper lubrication for easy cranks even on the coldest mornings.
This probably means switching to a thinner viscosity. But you'll want to make sure whatever you choose is right for your needs. You can get a start by checking your cars owner's manual. In fact, getting familiar with this document is helpful in all aspects of the process. And if you need some additional advice with choosing the right oil, a local auto shop should be able to help.
2. Boost Your Battery
You might take for granted the important role a properly functioning battery plays. But if you've been caught in the cold with a sluggish and dying battery, you know the struggle. That is the last place you want to be stuck, so take steps to winterize your car and its battery before then.
The frigid temps can drain juice from under the hood. So it's worth considering whether you should get a new battery to replace a worn product. The best time to do this is as winter starts, since you know it will be a tough time. But at the very least, you'll want to check its performance before the frost arrives. This will include an overview of all of the different components. Start by checking the terminals, battery fluid and cables to ensure a firm connection.
Once you rule out any obvious cracks or other issues with the battery, ensure it's got a proper charge. There are several types of hydrometers that can give you the accurate information you need. Finally, you'll want to ensure your battery isn't too old. If you've had it for a while, even if everything else looks fine, it could be on its last legs. And if you decide it's time to replace it, make sure you buy a new battery. Even though it's on the shelf doesn't mean it hasn't been sitting for a while. It's easy to check the manufacturing date of any battery. And it should have been produced within the past few months to ensure maximum charge and power.
3. Inspect Your Tires
Properly inflated tires with sufficient tread are vital no matter when you're driving. But as you winterize your car, you'll want to pay special attention to these factors and more. For starters, if you frequently drive on snow or ice covered roads, you might want to consider tire chains. There are also specially formulated snow tires that we think are great options in many climates.
These tires consist of softer rubber than typical tires and will allow you to have more traction. Of course, in milder climates you can probably drive safely with all season tires. In any case, you'll want to keep the properly inflated. And if the tread is starting to wear down, consider getting a new set that works great in your region.
As temperature drops, so does air pressure. So even if your tires are perfect in the summer or fall, check again when it gets cold. When your tires are inflated to the proper level, you'll get the most traction out of the rubber.
4. Prepare For Emergencies
No matter how much you do or how well you winterize your car, a breakdown can happen. And they always seem to occur at the most inconvenient times. Plus, there's the dreaded possibility that you get stranded after running off the road or getting in a wreck. But no matter what you encounter on the road, you can make sure you're as prepared as possible.
That starts with making sure you're equipped with the most appropriate items packed away. Any emergency car kit should have a few items in common. And we recommend keeping it in your vehicle no matter the weather. But if you get stranded in the cold, you'll definitely want something to keep you warm.
A great first aid kit is important in case of injury. Keep some water and sustenance -- such as energy bars -- to keep you going if the worst happens. Make sure you have an ice scraper and maybe even a product designed to thaw a frozen door or lock. There are also flat tire remedies and battery boosters that can get you out of a jam. You might also want to consider some basic tools or other items that make sense for your situation.
5. Remember The Basics
We'll start with the windshield, because if you can't see where you're going nothing else matters. So make sure you've got high quality windshield wiper blades for your needs. And also check the washer fluid to make sure it's right for the weather and filled properly. But there are a few other odds and ends you'll probably want to consider.
First of all, if you're vehicle is equipped with four wheel drive you can perform a quick checkup. This might be best suited for a professional, but shouldn't take long or cost too much. And if you actually need the added traction, it will be a relief to know it is working properly.
And while you're at it, take a holistic approach to everything moving and shaking under the hood. As you winterize your car, it's also a good time to replace worn hoses and belts. Check spark plugs too, and generally ensure everything is in order.
Safety is paramount on the road. And when you winterize your car, you're taking control of the situation.
We hope our guide has helped you check off items from your list. If so, share this article with the winter motorists in your life. And leave us a comment below if you have any final thoughts or questions.
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