While the allure of the holidays and snow during the winter are appealing, the winter months are the harshest on almost everything. From our bodies to our houses and cars, the winter weather is hazardess to many things. If the proper precautions are not taken in preparing your car for the winter, the repercussions can be dangerous.
Here are a couple of quick tips to help ensure that your car survives winter. Most of them take five minutes and can be done at home in your very own garage.
Check your antifreeze.
Antifreeze is essential to keep your engine from overheating and in the winter it keeps the water in your radiator system from freezing. Open your hood and find the coolant reserve container; it’s usually a clear plastic tank and you’ll see hoses connected to your radiator. Check your antifreeze/coolant ratio and level. It should be about a 50/50 mix and the tank will have lines on it to indicate low/high fluid levels. ONLY check these levels while your engine is cool!
Check your battery.
- In the winter your battery must work harder to start your car, also making the battery more vulnerable for dying. Being stranded with a dead battery in the bitter cold can be dangerous and deadly. Most auto parts stores will check your battery for free.
Inspect your lights.
- Having a tail light, headlight or brake light out can be dangerous because other cars cannot see you as well, not to mention it’s illegal and you can get a ticket for it. Plus we just set our clocks back an hour for daylight savings time so it’s getting darker faster, which means your lights will be used more. Bulbs are fairly inexpensive and can save your life, or at least save you from a run-in with a cop.
Wax your car
- Nothing is worse on your car’s paint job than rain, snow and salt. Put a coat of wax on your car to create a barrier between your paint and harsh elements. Make sure to wash your car and completely dry it before waxing. It is also helpful to wax in the shade. Use a damp sponge and squirt about a tablespoon of wax onto it. Rub the wax over every section in a clockwise and circular motion, squirting more wax onto the sponge when necessary. Once you’ve covered the whole car go back to your starting point where the wax should be dry by now. Use a soft cloth and rub in the opposite direction to buff off the wax. Make sure you’re flipping the cloth around so that you don’t end up putting wax back onto your car’s surface. It is highly recommended to go back once more with another clean towel to make sure you got all the wax off because after just a couple hours the wax can damage your paint job.
Add an ingredient to your wiper-fluid
- Slush, salt and ice can cover your windshield, decreasing your visibility. Buy a windshield wiper fluid that contains de-icer to help keep your windshield from freezing when you need to clean it off while driving, or to help speed up the de-icing process early in the morning. It also is never a bad idea to get new wiper blades, another inexpensive precaution.
Check engine belts and hoses
- If the rubber on your belts and hoses is frayed or cracked it can easily completely give out from extreme temperatures. Belts and hoses only cost about $10. Always better to be safe than sorry.
Tire tread and pressure
- It is vital to have suitable tread on your tires for traction with icy and snowy road conditions. To check for the proper tread, stick a penny head-first in between the treads; if you can see the top of Lincoln’s hair then it’s time for a new tire. Also, tires are more at risk to losing pressure in cold weather, so use a tire gauge to check the pounds per square inch (PSI). The PSI rating that is stamped on the sidewall of your tire is actually the maximum safe rating by the tire manufacturer. Make sure to check the sticker on the inside of your driver-side door for the vehicle’s recommended PSI. Also make sure your spare tire is properly equipped and that you have the right tools to change a flat.
Keep an emergency kit
- Last but not least, make sure to keep an emergency kit in your car in case something does go wrong. An ice scraper, flashlight, fresh batteries, blanket, jumper cables, bottled water, Fix-a-Flat, flares, shovel, kitty litter (for traction if your tire gets stuck in snow), first aid kit, boots, gloves and of course a cell phone are a few simple items that could save your life.