Winter weather and icy roads can make for dangerous conditions and put a tremendous strain on many parts of your vehicle. Avoid breakdowns when the temperatures drop by making sure your car can handle slippery road conditions. Here are 6 tips for preparing your car to tackle the winter season.
Check Your Fluid Levels
Many car owners often forget to check their fluid levels during any season. In winter not maintaining them can be hazardous.
Coolant – It’s vital that you have the correct antifreeze/water mixture in your radiator to prevent your engine from both freezing in cold weather and overheating in summer. It also helps to cut back on corrosion. A 50:50 ratio is considered a normal mixture level that will keep fluids from freezing at temperatures as low as -34 degrees Fahrenheit. Consult your owner's manual to double-check the right mixture needed for your vehicle. Pre-mixed bottles of antifreeze and water can be purchased at local gas stations or automotive stores.
Oil – You always need to make sure your oil levels are sufficient, but if you live in a place where temperatures drop below freezing regularly, you may want to consider switching to a thinner oil. Make sure to consult your vehicle owner’s manual or ask your mechanic about the best way to prevent oil from freezing.
Wiper fluid – Regular wiper fluid won’t do in freezing temperatures. Make sure to switch to a freeze-resistant wiper fluid to keep your windshield clear.
Keep Your Tires
If winter storms and other adverse weather conditions occur in your area, consider replacing all four regular tires with snow tires to improve braking, traction and control on wet or icy roads.
If you choose to continue using regular tires be sure to check their air pressure regularly with a gauge. Deflated tires decrease traction and increase sliding on ice. You can visit your local gas station to fill your ties to the correct level. Your owner's manual should list the suggested pounds per square inch (psi).
Inspect Belts and Hoses
If a belt or hose snaps under the hood while you’re driving your safety could be at risk. Winter temperatures can weaken these parts. Belts and hoses are typically inspected when you bring your car to a mechanic for a tune-up (usually every 30,000 miles), but additional checks will help keep you safe.
Maintain Your Heater and Defroster Units
Heat is a necessity when driving in cold temperatures. It’s also important to make sure your defroster unit is functioning properly. Foggy windshields in winter can cause serious vision impairments while driving. If you experience a fogging issue, have your car checked for air leaks around the doors and windows.
Keep an Emergency Kit Handy
A safety kit that includes road flares, flashlight, jack, lug wrench, blanket, shovel, hat and gloves, ice scraper and brush, shovel, container of coolant, snacks, kitty litter (if your tires get stuck in snow) and a first aid kit are important to have on hand. In winter you have to be prepared for accidents due to weather conditions.