As this winter shapes up to be one of the worst in recent memory, we find ourselves watching the forecast intently for the next storm. In turn, we may be neglecting the one thing that takes the biggest beating during this time of the year: our vehicles. Driving in winter weather can have a significant negative impact on a poorly prepared vehicle. We offer a few tips to help you get ready for the next blast of snow and ice.
Change your wiper blades. Wiper blades are a wear item and need to be changed occasionally in order to ensure good visibility. Make sure that the blades you have clearing your windshield are adequate for the additional demands that snow and ice bring.
Top off your windshield washer fluid. Use a de-icing washer fluid to help your wiper blades get their job done. During the winter months, you will go through a lot of washer fluid, so keep the bottle in your trunk (you will be glad it is there when you run out).
Inspect your car’s engine coolant system. Make sure that coolant hoses are fastened securely and replace any that are cracked or excessively worn. Top off your antifreeze and make sure its temperature properties are appropriate for cold weather in order to avoid the risk of having the coolant freeze (it is called “antifreeze” for a reason). You should be able to purchase an inexpensive antifreeze tester (called a hydrometer) at your local auto parts store.
Evaluate the condition of your tires. Tires are one of the most important components of safe winter driving. Make sure you have plenty of tread and that your tire style is appropriate for winter driving. You also want to check the air pressure in your tires (don’t forget your spare) frequently as cold weather will reduce tire pressure, which can make your vehicle even more difficult to handle when driving in poor road conditions.
Check your battery. Cold weather will kill an already weakened battery. Many auto parts stores will check the condition of your battery for free. Do yourself a favor—check the battery and replace it if necessary. You don’t want to be stranded on a cold parking lot at the end of a long work day.
Wash your car frequently. The chemicals used to treat roads are terrible for your car’s finish and will typically speed up the corrosion process. During winter weather months, road salt and dirt will build up on the body and in the wheel wells of your car. Keep your car clean by giving it a good hosing every so often (don’t forget to wash underneath).
Build a “cold weather kit” to keep in your car. Winter weather can put you in some unpleasant predicaments. We recommend you keep the following on hand in the event of an emergency: ice scraper, jumper cables, sand or other traction material, bottled water, food (granola bars are good), blanket, flashlight, first aid kit, shovel, hazard triangles or flares, and extra dry clothing/shoes. We view this as a minimal kit; please build yours to suit your individual needs.
Winter is a wonderful time of year—one of our favorites. Keep your holiday season enjoyable and worry-free with a little preventative planning.
More about Driving in Winter from the Garage:
7 Tips for Winter Driving
Winter Prep: Do it Now
Tire Chains 101
Choosing the Right Tire Chains
How to Drive in the Snow
5 Reasons You Need Husky Liners Floor Mats
Why Seat Warmers are Better than Warming up Your Car
A Remote Starter is Not Just for Scaring Children
Andy Sheehan is a blogger, aspiring novelist, and relentless hoon. He plans to will his 2002 Subaru WRX Wagon to his firstborn, plans his daily commute around the swoop of its roads, and doesn’t plan to ever buy an automatic. A cool-car omnipath, he loves the common Mustang or Chevelle, but hunts for the weird and wonderful Velorexes and Cosmos of the autoverse. And when he can afford a garage, he’s going to turn an MX-5 into a race car.