The winter is full of distractions that can keep you from the necessary tasks of car maintenance for the season. If you haven’t properly winterized your car yet, take a few hours to get your vehicle ready to provide reliable transportation throughout the next few months. Icy and snowy conditions can do a number on the car you use daily, so the right preparations will improve safety in dangerous weather. Protect your passengers and your suspension with a winter time tune up.
1. Swap To Snow Tires
Whether you already have a set of winter tires waiting in the garage or need to invest in a set from our shop, take a moment to swap to a set appropriate to the weather. These tires should have plenty of tread or you could lose traction when you meet a patch of ice or water on the roads. If you don’t need to deal with too much ice or snow, mud tires may still be a better choice if runoff makes your driveway hard to access during the season. Don’t lose time spinning out and getting stuck in a rut due to bald tires.
2. Get A Battery Check Up
The engine has a much harder time starting up when cold from the winter. This means the battery needs to be working at peak condition to give you a smooth start on your first attempt. A little diagnostic testing by a professional can determine if your battery is ready to last through a full season’s worth of cold mornings. Models that have been in use for four years or more likely need replacement before the coldest temperatures set in. Check your owner’s manual for recommendations on when to get a new battery for best performance.
3. Balance Your Antifreeze
What proportion of antifreeze and water is mixed in your reservoir right now? A quick test can determine the balance immediately. If it isn’t set right at a 50/50 blend, your engine could become damaged in the winter by low temperatures. The fluid can only stabilize the heat of the engine properly if enough water is kept mixed in as well. Consider flushing out the entire coolant system and refilling it with a fresh mixture to ensure the entire engine is protected by the antifreeze if you are near an interval for this kind of maintenance.
4. Examine The Brakes
Brake service is essential as part of a winterization process for the vehicle. Worn down pads or warped rotors can leave you without the power you need to stop in the winter. Wet and icy roads call for brakes in peak condition. You can check the brakes for signs of wear yourself, but be sure to have a professional inspection done as well.
5. Invest In New Windshield Wipers
Dirt and salt from the roads often accumulates on the windshield when cruising down winter roads. Without flexible and tough windshield wipers, your vision could become obscured by an unexpected rain storm or a splash of mud. Keep your eyes on the road with plenty of windshield cleaning fluid and a new pair of wipers. Even if your wipers aren’t cracking or squeaking yet, this simple change can be life saving in an unexpected scenario. Clearing the windshield is one of the most important safety features on the vehicle, so don’t overlook this essential seasonal task.
6. Change The Oil
Timing your oil changes with seasonal shifts is a good way to remember each deadline as it comes up. It is especially important to get the winter oil change completed because your car will experience extra strain as you travel through stop and go traffic. Heading out on the highways to visit family and friends for the holidays is definitely stressful for the engine. Traveling hundreds of miles round trip on worn out oil is not recommended.
7. Test The Defrost
Dipping nighttime temperatures leave the windshield and rear window frosted over and impossible to see through to get started. There is no need to wait minutes or half an hour to get on the road when you can turn on the defroster and immediately see results. Test the defrosting units and heaters at the same time to keep the car cozy and ready to go.
8. Put Aside Some Supplies
Since getting stuck on the roadside is a little risky in the cold weather, you need to carry some basic supplies for safety. Stock a small safety kit in your trunk that includes:
- A basic first aid kit with bandages and pain killers.
- Emergency blankets or warm suits.
- Snow chains or tire spikes for ice storms.
- A bag of plain clay cat litter to help you get out of slippery spots or to soak up spilled fluids.
- Equipment for changing your tires and one to two spares.
9. Transmission Fluid Check
As with all of your fluids, you can expect your transmission fluid to move more sluggishly in the winter as you start up. This means that leaks that lead to low levels could cause your transmission to slip or have a hard time getting in gear during cold days. Transmission tune ups are crucial when winter sets in. Top off your fluids and get rid of any pesky leaks and drips now to preserve the gears throughout the upcoming months.
10. Wrap Up With Cables, Belts, And Hoses
Finish your winter chore checklist by giving the various belts, hoses, and cables a quick visual inspection. Belts show signs of damage through fraying or a shiny, cracked surface. Hoses may come loose from their connections, crack, or crumble away altogether. Battery cables are especially easy to check – damage to the outer cover and exposed wire indicate serious problems. A technician should be the one to look over your wiring and inspect the fuses. These tasks don’t take more than half an hour, but they provide a lot of protection against little problems that can leave you stranded.