7 Tips to Prepare for Winter Driving
It's easy to enjoy our cars & trucks when the sun is shining and the roads are clear. But when the weather takes a turn for the worst, driving can become a dreadful chore. The last thing you want to deal with when sub zero temperatures are among us is pesky auto maintenance. So in preparation for winter, here's a list of 7 things you should start checking now before the frigid temperatures hit:
Tires! Tires are arguably the most important safety equipment you have installed on your vehicle.
- Check your tire tread. The tread pattern on your tires is the first line of defense in how well your vehicle handles in tough road conditions or even worse, emergency situations (hard braking, swerving, etc.). It’s important to keep an eye on how much tread life you have left, and if it’s too low then it may be time to replace your tires.
- Tire pressure. This is often over looked, but certainly critical to the life and performance of your tires, especially when conditions are less than ideal. Make sure the air pressure in your tires is filled to the manufacturer’s recommended level. Too little or too much air pressure can pose a potential risk and negatively effect your tire’s performance.
- Swap out your summer tires for a winter tire. If you live in an area that sees snow during the winter then you’re probably very aware of the importance of a tire specifically designed for driving on snow-covered roads.
Check and/or change your fluids.
- This should be part of your regular maintenance schedule, but make sure to change the oil & filter before the winter months hit. Be sure to use the manufacturers recommended oil type as well as the recommended weight. Some cars/trucks may require a thinner weight oil in the winter and a heavier weight in the summer. If you’re unsure you can check your owner's manual or consult your local dealership.
- Check that your antifreeze/coolant levels are within spec. Don't slack on this one, antifreeze does exactly what the name implies - it keeps your engine from freezing. Keeping this system serviced regularly will ensure you don't end up frozen solid.
Check that your heater functions properly. This one may seem a little silly, but the idea here is to consider the worst case scenario. Sure you may be able to tough it out for a short trip in the dead of winter, but what would happen if you got stuck in your vehicle during a snow storm? It might be unlikely, but if that ever did happen to you, having a fully functional heater can be a real life saver.
Inspect your battery. The cold weather can really do a number on your car or truck’s battery. Before freezing temperatures hit, it’s best to take your battery to the local parts store or dealership and have them run a diagnostic test. The last thing you want is to hop into the car at 6 am on a snowy day only to hear a mere click when you go to turn the key!
Check your wiper blades. This might be one of the easiest winter prep tasks. Inspect your blades and replace them if you see signs of wear or skipping across the glass when in use. This will help ensure you can safely clear your windshield of obstructions when the time comes to do so.
Consider making a winter supply kit (especially if you live in very cold/snowy climates). Some basic items like the ones listed below can provide significant use in times of emergency:
- A flashlight
- Road flares
- First aid kit
- A blanket or two
- Extra pairs of gloves
- A multitool
- Toilet paper (don’t ask!)
- An extra ice scraper
- Duct tape
- High-energy snacks like trail mix or jerky
Protect your vehicle's paint from the harsh winter elements. Some of us have cars that get stored away when the harsh weather starts, and that’s certainly the most effective way to protect your vehicle from winter. But if we’re talking about cars or trucks that see road duty even in the toughest conditions, then an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Consider taking these steps to help protect your car or truck this winter:
Wax, seal or coat your vehicle’s paint. Before the weather gets too bad perform a thorough wash & cleaning of the entire vehicle, then apply a robust layer of protection to the painted surfaces paying special attention to the rocker panels & fenders (the areas that see the most abuse from road grime & salt). Wax is a great place to start for paint protection, but stepping up to a sealant or even ceramic style coating will ensure your paint protection lasts through the toughest conditions.
- Apply a glass sealant to your windshield. It goes without saying that keeping your field of view free of obstructions is key & critical for safety. Applying a glass sealant to your windshield can help in a number of areas. First, it will help rain, sleet or snow glide easily off the surface keeping your vision unobstructed. Second, it can help your windshield wipers to be more efficient in keeping your windshield clean & clear.
Inclement weather will soon rear its ugly head, and when it does you want to make sure you're prepared! Hopefully this list will help you get ready for winter and make it through unscathed!
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