The snow is here and you’re out on the roads getting ready for the holidays so we’ve compiled a list of 10 Tips to ready your car for all that driving.
1. KEEP AN EMERGENCY KIT IN YOUR CAR. Your kit should include at least the following AS WELL AS A PLAN IF YOU GET STUCK:
- a blanket
- extra boots and gloves
- an extra set of warm clothes
- extra water and food, including hard candies
- an ice scraper
- a small shovel
- a flashlight
- windshield washer fluid
- windshield wipers
- jumper cables
- a tool kit
- tire chains
- a tire gauge
- a spare tire with air in it
- tire-changing equipment
- a first-aid kit
- paper towels
- a bag of abrasive material such as sand, salt or non-clumping kitty litter, which can provide additional traction if a tire gets stuck in snow.
2. GET YOUR OIL CHANGED
Are you approaching the time for a 30,000-mile full service for your vehicle? If so, don’t procrastinate! Among other things, the service should include an oil change, and the oil used should have the right viscosity, or thickness, for your vehicle at this time of year. Oil tends to thicken as it gets colder, and if it’s too thick it won’t do the best job of keeping your engine lubricated. Check your owner’s manual for guidance about which oil to use in different climates and temperatures.
3. REPLACE YOUR WINDSHIELD WIPERS
When’s the last time you replaced your windshield wiper blades? Low visibility can make driving in cold weather extremely dangerous, so it’s important to make sure the wiper blades are up to par. Your wiper blades are made out of rubber, and with time they’ll crack, split and deteriorate. It’s suggested that you replace your windshield wipers every six to 12 months. Keeping your wiper fluid filled up is also a plus, as fluid can assist in breaking up snow and ice on the windshield. Also make sure your heating and defrosting
4. MAKE SURE YOUR DEFROST AND HEATING UNITS WORK
When our windshields fog up in the winter, it’s because moisture from inside the car condenses on the glass and makes it very difficult to see. Water vapor coming in from an open window — or even from your own breathing — can fog up a window. Defrosters solve this problem by blowing warm, dry air over the glass. If you’re sure your defroster unit is functioning properly but there’s still a problem with too much fogging, have your car checked for air leaks around the doors and windows bringing in extra moisture.
It’s also important to stay warm and comfortable while driving, since shivering makes it difficult to steer or pay attention to the road. If your heater isn’t working, you may have a faulty heater coil. Although heater coils are expensive to replace, it will be worth it during cold winter mornings if you don’t want to freeze behind the wheel.
5. CHECK YOUR BATTERY
This is an ideal time of year to make sure your battery’s posts and connections are corrosion-free and that your battery has all the water it needs. If your battery is more than three years old, have a certified repair shop test its ability to hold a charge. Granted, you might be able to find a Good Samaritan to help you jump-start your vehicle in the middle of a blizzard — but wouldn’t you rather avoid such a scenario altogether?
6. EXAMINE YOUR BELTS AND HOSES
Even if you’re not getting a tune-up this winter, it doesn’t hurt to have a mechanic take a look at how everything is holding up around your engine. Cold temperatures can weaken belts and hoses, and if something snaps or breaks while you’re out on the road, a tow truck will be the only way to get moving again.
7. CHECK YOUR TIRE PRESSURE
Your tires must be properly inflated to ensure you’ll have the best possible traction as you drive along — and traction is often severely jeopardized in wet, snowy or icy conditions. The air pressure in your tires has likely dropped as the weather has gotten colder, so it’s important to see where things stand now. (You can generally expect that you’ll lose 1 pound per square inch whenever the temperature drops by 10 degrees Fahrenheit.) Again, your trusty owner’s manual will tell you what your target tire pressure should be.
8. CHECK YOUR 4 WHEEL DRIVE
Make sure it works correctly. A functioning system can improve tire traction on snow and ice, decreasing the possibility of getting stuck. Be sure that the system engages and disengages easily, and that all drivers in your household know how and when to activate the system. Remember 4WD in an SUV will help get your car moving, but it won’t improve braking at high speeds.
9. CHECK YOUR ANTIFREEZE
Aim for having a 50-50 mix of antifreeze (coolant) and water inside your radiator. This will prevent the mixture from freezing even at ridiculously cold temperatures. It’s easy to check the status of the mixture with an inexpensive antifreeze tester, which you can pick up at any auto parts store. If the mixture is off, your cooling system should be drained and refilled or flushed. Be sure you’re equipped to dispose of your old antifreeze properly if you do this job yourself. It can’t just be poured down the drain.
10. KEEP YOUR GAS TANK FULL
Keep the gas tank as full as you can to prevent the gas lines from freezing.