Winter has a way of sneaking up on us. Have you winterized your vehicle and put together a winter car kit yet? Once the temperatures plunge and the snow starts to fly, a little advance preparation can help you stay safe and avoid being stranded. It could save you the cost of a towing bill – or in the most extreme conditions, possibly save your life.
How to Get Your Auto Prepared
The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) recommends a winter car care check for all auto owners – even those who live in milder climates. Here are some of the things they recommend doing as you get your vehicle ready for winter:
• Since cold weather makes existing problems worse, take care of any problems you’ve noticed with the performance of your vehicle – such as rough idling or sluggish starts.
• Replace dirty air, fuel, and PCV filters.
• Have your auto’s battery checked.
• Check tires for adequate tread and remember to check for proper tire pressure once a month. Make sure your spare tire and jack are in good working order.
• Add a bottle of fuel de-icer to your gas tank once a month when the temperature is below freezing. According to the ACE, this helps keep moisture from forming in your fuel line. Keeping a full tank of gas can also help prevent your fuel line from freezing up.
• Change your oil and oil filter if you’re due for a change, and be sure to follow the car manufacturer’s recommended oil change schedule going forward.
• Flush and refill your auto’s cooling system with coolant (antifreeze) as recommended. From time to time throughout the winter, check to make sure you have the right level and concentration of antifreeze. ACE says that a mix of half antifreeze and half water is the typical recommendation. If you’re doing this yourself, remember that you should never try to remove the radiator cap until the engine is completely cool.
• Have a professional technician check the condition of belts, clamps, and hoses.
• Check your heater and defroster to make sure they’re in good working order.
• Replace old windshield wiper blades and stock up on windshield washer fluid.
Put together a winter car kit
Safe winter driving also means keeping some supplies in your car so you’ll be prepared for whatever Mother Nature decides to dish out – especially if you live in a region where winters are harsh. Here are some things to consider including in your winter car kit:
• Shovel (preferably a metal, short-handled one) in case you need to dig snow out from under the wheels of your car
• Jumper cables
• Bag of salt or cat litter (the non-clumping kind) to put in the path of your auto’s wheels for better traction on ice and snow
• Flashlight and extra batteries
• Ice scraper and snow brush
• Exterior windshield cleaner
• Wooden matches in a waterproof container
• Non-perishable snacks and bottled water
• Blankets and extra winter gear such as gloves, cap, and socks
• Light sticks and flares to use as a light source as well as a safety measure in case you become stranded at the side of the road.
Prepared Winter Driving is Safer (and sometimes less costly) Winter Driving
Getting your car and your winter car kit prepared now will help you be ready when the very coldest months of the year roll around. It can help your car run more reliably and possibly head off pricey repair bills (and help avoid having to take out a payday loan) during the coldest months of the year, when cars are more likely to break down. And most importantly of all, making these preparations now will help keep you and your passengers safe.