The winter months can be hard on vehicles, but there are steps you can take to keep your ride running strong even when the temperatures drop and snow falls. Performing some basic preventative maintenance and stocking up on emergency supplies can help keep you from getting in trouble, and get you out of it in case something goes wrong.
1. Don't procrastinate
If your car idles rough, struggles to start, or has a tendency to stall, colder temperatures are only going to make those worse. Get your car to a local shop and have any pre-existing issues taken care of before winter rolls around.
2. Change your oil and replace dirty air filters
These are two normal, yet crucial maintenance steps that can become even larger problems in harsher climates. Letting your oil go too long without a change begins to damage the inner workings of your engine, while dirty air filters make it run less efficiently.
3. Get your battery checked
Battery strength should be tested by a professional. If you’re having battery issues, get to a local mechanic to avoid being stranded on your way to Christmas dinner!
4. Replace tires if needed
Like most things on this list, worn tires perform worse when the weather worsens. If you think your tires are close to needing replaced, it’s probably worthwhile to purchase a new set. If you have low-profile sport tires, you may need a set of snow tires with deeper tread if you’re in an area that will see some significant snow.
Cold temperatures can also cause tires to have decreased air pressure, so you need to make sure your tire pressure is at the manufacturer recommended level. It’s also a good idea to make sure you have an portable inflator and that your car jack and spare tire are in good shape, in case of a flat tire.
Pro-tip: Consider investing in studded or studdable snow tires if your area is prone to icy conditions. A set of snow chains are also nice to have on-hand for driving mountain passes during inclement weather.
5. Add fuel de-icer to your gas tank
Adding a bottle of fuel de-icer once a month helps keep moisture from freezing in the fuel line. If you know below-freezing temperatures are coming, it’s a good preventative step to take — especially if you have an older vehicle.
6. Flush your coolant
A 50/50 mix of water and antifreeze is recommended for the winter months. Do not remove the radiator cap to fill with the mixture until the engine has cooled.
7. Check your wiper blades
Visibility can be bad enough in a snowstorm, and it can get downright dangerous if your wiper blades can’t keep your windshield clear. If you’re looking for replacements, rubber-edged winter blades fight ice buildup best. You’ll also want to make sure your windshield washer solvent is full and you have some extra sitting around the garage as well. Keep a snow brush and ice scraper handy, too.
8. Pack an emergency kit
A winter emergency kit should include extra gloves, boots, and blankets, a shovel, sand or kitty litter, tow strap, a flashlight and extra batteries, jumper cables, a portable battery charger, a car cell phone charger, emergency snacks, and bottled water.
Pre-packaged roadside emergency kits are also a good all-in-one kit to have on-hand throughout the year, and make great gifts for a new driver!
9. Plan ahead!
You can never be too prepared for winter roads. As your travel dates near, be sure to keep an eye on the weather forecast and make sure you have everything you might need for a long drive. Be sure to give yourself enough time to reach your destination, take your time, and be safe!