With winter weather popping up in many parts of the country, it's time to start taking steps to make sure that your car is prepared for colder temperatures. Getting stranded or having an accident in cold, wintry weather can be dangerous for everyone involved, so here are five key ways to minimize your chances of a breakdown or an accident this winter.
Air up your tires to the maximum recommended pressure. One of the most common breakdowns, particularly in early winter, is a flat tire, but it's one that can be particularly nasty on a very cold day. Changing a tire on a cold day either means a miserable experience or an expensive call to a car repair place.
All of that can be avoided with one simple technique. When you fill up with gas, look for the availability of "free air" at the fueling station. Park your car over there and use an air gauge (which most fueling stations and all auto supply stores sell for a dollar or two) to check the air pressure of each tire. It's easy: Just unscrew a little cap from a nozzle on your tire and press the gauge on there. Then compare that number to the maximum recommended pressure from your car's manual and if it's low, add some of that free air – again, by just pressing the air hose onto your tire nozzle – and check it again after 10 or 15 seconds. Repeat until you have the pressure you desire. This will not only save you from a tire problem, it will also help with fuel efficiency.
Put a "winter supply" box or bag in your car. This can potentially save your life in extreme weather conditions, so to say it's important is an understatement.
A "winter supply" kit is one that contains a few items that can help you survive in a winter weather emergency in your car. It usually contains items, such as blankets, a change of very warm clothes, a road flare, a backup cell phone for 911 calls and some emergency food rations (like nuts or jerky). Those things can keep you warm and keep you fed for a day or two if needed, and the flare can attract the attention of roadside help.
Get your oil changed. If you live in a cold climate, this is a good time to get your oil changed, as different oil works better in the winter months than in the summer months. If you're anywhere close to your regular oil change, get it done on the dot, if not a little early.
At the same time, check on other fluids in your car, including the antifreeze level. And have winter windshield wiper fluid added, so you can keep your windshield clear in the winter months.
Get your car washed, waxed and undercoated (and repeat it regularly during the winter).During winter months, transportation departments put some pretty nasty things on the road to keep them clear. Ash, sand and salt are all used and none of them are particularly good for the exterior or the undercarriage of your car. They can corrode the metal, bringing on rust with surprising speed.
The best protection you can get is to have a washing and waxing done right away before the winter weather sets in and then schedule yourself to have this done at least once a month throughout the winter. Put it right on your calendar a month from now, two months from now, and three months from now, so you don't forget it. Your car's exterior and undercarriage will thank you.
Put weight in the trunk of a rear-wheel drive car. If your car has rear-wheel drive, it can run into some real problems if it gets stuck in a big pile of snow. When trying to escape from being stuck in winter weather, rear-wheel cars may have their front ends swing around wildly, endangering the car's passengers and those on the roadway. This is because most of the weight of the car is in the front (the engine block) while the actual propulsion of the car is in the rear.
If you do find yourself with a rear-wheel drive car in an area with any history of winter weather, you should add some weight to the rear of the car. Stop by an auto supply store and get a couple of sandbags to add to your trunk and keep your winter gear box (or bag) in there, too. It'll hamper your gas mileage a bit, but it will drastically improve your winter weather traction and your ability to get out of a tough winter situation.
Following these simple steps will prevent many winter accidents and prolong the life of your car. It might take a little time, but that time will be repaid in enormous savings in terms of avoided accidents and longer car lifespans.
"5 Tips to Prepare Your Car for Winter and Save Money" (2016, December) US News and World Report. Retrieved from: https://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/my-money/articles/2016-12-06/5-tips-to-prepare-your-car-for-winter-and-save-money