1. Get the right kind of oil change.
You should be doing this regularly, but in the winter months it is especially important. You may need to change the type of oil you use altogether. Check your vehicles operator manual to find out what viscosity you should be using in freezing temperatures. You may need to switch to thinner oil in the winter months. You can change the motor oil in your car yourself, but if you don’t feel up to it, stop by and get your oil changed at Squires Services.
2. Make sure the windshield is clear.
One concern during cold weather is keeping the windows clear of fog. When the cold temperatures outside combine with the hot air inside the vehicle, windows begin to fog up. The defrost functionality on cars is there to eliminate this, but there are a few things you can do to achieve greater results. Make sure to keep the recirculation function off. Most new cars will automatically turn that function off, but older cars you’ll want to make sure it’s off. While it’s nice to have the heat blasting at your feet if your shoes or floor mats are wet or covered in snow the evaporation will increase moisture in the air. Another great trick that seems a little out of the box is to crack the windows which will allow the heat from the defroster to rise, which will help clear up the fog right away.
3. Give your battery a little care.
Winter conditions mean your engine needs more voltage from your battery in order to start your car. You will want to make sure the battery has proper function. Make sure you have enough charge left in your battery. The easiest way to check is by flashing on your headlights before you start your vehicle. If the lights get brighter when you turn the ignition over your battery may be dying. Actual voltage can be tested at home with a voltmeter or many local auto shops will run a test on your battery for little or no cost. You’ll also want to check the positive and negative cables for cracks and corrosion.
4. Examine your belts and hoses.
When doing a belt assessment you should examine each belt for glazing, breaking, peeling and softening. Loose or worn clamps can also determine adequate function of your hose lines. Ask your local mechanic about belts and hoses if you observe any loss of power, squealing or grinding sounds or if you feel vibrations, slips or catching. This is also a routine maintenance check that should be performed regularly.
5. Think about switching to snow tires.
Do you live in an area full of hills and steep valleys that gets a lot of snow and ice? You may want to improve traction by purchasing tires specifically for the winter and using them over these months instead of your all-season tires. When shopping around for snow tires, ask about all the fees that might come into play, such as fees for mounting and balancing.
6. Check your tire pressure.
Make sure your current tires aren’t too worn. You’ll want to check the air pressure on your tires. Refer to your operator’s manual to find out what your tires pressure level should be in the winter. Check your treads for wear and tear as well as punctures or slow leaks. You may want to invest in snow tires if you live in a region with rough winters.
7. Understand your four-wheel drive if it is an option in your vehicle.
You will want to know how to use your four-wheel drive before winter weather comes. There may be situations when you will need to engage four-wheel drive. Living in places where the weather can change quickly, it’s a good idea to know how to operate the appropriate settings for the drive train when the weather becomes questionable. Consult your vehicles operators manual or your local dealer for a quick demonstration of how to engage four-wheel drive.
8. Get the antifreeze mixture just right.
In normal weather you typically want a 50/50 ratio of engine coolant to water, but in the winter it should be remixed to a ratio of 60/40. This will prevent the mixture from freezing even at terribly 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. Be sure you’re equipped to dispose of your old antifreeze properly if you do this job yourself. There are toxic chemicals in this liquid compound that can’t just be poured down the drain.
9. Keep an emergency kit in trunk.
Store this stuff in your trunk during the winter months: a blanket, extra boots, gloves, an extra set of warm clothes, extra food and water, an ice scraper, a small shovel, a flashlight, windshield washer fluid, flares, jumper cables, a tool kit, a tire gauge, a first-aid kit, a bag of granulated material such as sand, rock salt or cat litter. This can provide additional traction if a tire gets stuck in snow. Of course most people have a cell phone on them most of the time. This may be a lifesaver provided signal is available to the device. If you have access to a phone, you should try dialing 911 to summon help.
10. Know what to do if you get stranded.
Stay in your vehicle! Walking in a storm can be very dangerous. You can lose your way, wander out of reach, become exhausted, collapse and risk your life. Your vehicle itself is a good shelter. Keep calm and think clearly. Don’t run the engine; keep the fresh air in your vehicle. Freezing wet or windy snow can plug your vehicle’s exhaust system causing deadly carbon monoxide gas to enter your vehicle. Keep your blood circulating. Don’t expect to be comfortable. The challenge is to survive until you’re found. It is much better to be cold and alert than to become comfortably warm and slip into unconsciousness. If you have cell service, roadside assistance is always just a phone call away. It’s a good idea to always keep a car charger for your phone in your car during the winter.
11. Replace old wiper blades and refill washer fluid with de-icer.
Buy a good washer fluid with an antifreeze solution – regular fluids just won’t cut it in freezing temperatures. You should replace your windshield wipers every 6-12 months depending on wear and tear. If they’re starting to look a little haggard be sure to put new ones on before the first big snow storm of the season hits. For especially harsh climates you may also want to pick up a set of winter wipers that protect the wipers’ mechanism.
12. Check your defroster and heater.
These types of repairs can be costly, but you really need your defroster and heater to function properly in order to drive safely in the winter. However, one tip that may save you money on defroster repair, is to check for air leaks around doors and windows. Leaks can allow in extra moisture that will make it seem like you have a broken defroster.
13. Keep your gas tank filled.
You shouldn’t let your gas tank get all the way to empty in the winter (or any other time for that matter). The cold weather can cause condensation to form in an empty or near empty gas tank. That water can drip down into the gas and sinks to the bottom where it can then travel into your fuel lines. In the winter it can freeze in your fuel lines and block the flow of gas to your engine. Not good! So keep your tank at least a 1/4-1/2 way full at all times.
14. Have a de-icer available at home or in your purse/briefcase.
Small bottles of de-icer are often found at local retailers and auto part stores. They are always handy to keep around during the winter months. Lock mechanisms are likely to freeze shut not allowing keys to enter and unlock the vehicle. These bottles are handy devices that can save you time when you are on the go.