Winterizing your vehicle in 6 Steps
Winter can take its toll on vehicles in many ways: salt thrown down on the roads to keep travel safe, frigid temperatures, and dirty, slushy snow getting caught up in the wheel wells and undercarriage of a car or truck. By following the easy steps listed below, you and your vehicle will be better prepared for the upcoming season:
- Maintain Visibility: check your windshield wipers for any cracked or torn rubber, especially if you have been noticing streaks left in the wake of their movement. With snow, mud, and salt more apt to be kicked up on the road during winter commutes, you will be using your wipers more frequently. This step will also include making sure your wiper fluid is always full and contains an antifreeze agent, as well as making sure your defroster and A/C are working properly. A/C, even when running hot air, will make for faster defrosting.
- Check All Lights: you will need to make sure that your brake lights, headlights, turn signals, and parking lights are all in working order, to make it easier for other drivers to see you in adverse weather conditions.
- Maintain Battery: the colder the temperature, the less cranking power your battery has. On a conventional battery you can remove the top plastic caps to check the fluid level. If the level is low, you can add distilled water. With maintenance-free batteries, you need only check the window at the top of the battery to see the level of its charged state. Most service stations or auto shops can test your battery for free.
- Use Proper Engine Oil: when the air turns cold, engine oil thickens, making it harder for the engine to turn over. Most cars use a multi-weight oil that encompasses a broad temperature range, buts some manufacturers recommend a certain grade per temperature range. It will be helpful to time oil changes around the seasons to make sure you’re using the right oil.
- Check Cooling System: most manufacturers recommend flushing the cooling system every 2 years to keep from corrosion build up. If you are due for a flushing, schedule it for before winter hits so that the system can be refilled with a mixture of water and antifreeze.
- Prevent Freeze-Ups: lubricating your locks with a silicone spray will help avoid the horror of being freeze-locked out of your own car. If this has already happened, an antifreeze product will help thaw them out.
Remember that while most modern cars can be immediately put into gear and driven on a cold start, it’s still a good idea to let your vehicle warm up a bit before driving to help the oil warm up some. The time it takes to brush the snow from your windows and clear your wipers should be enough. It will help to ‘drive gently’ until you see the temperature gauge rise up a few pegs, or your blue ‘cold engine’ light shuts off. Cars can still overheat in the winter if the grille is clogged up with snow.
Winter is a grueling time of year, but it doesn’t have to be in matters of a safe vehicle to get to and from all the places you need to be while the snow is flying.