As the temperature outside drops into the single digits, and the roads become slick with snow and ice, the last thing you need is to become stranded in a winter storm because your car was not in peak condition to handle the extreme weather conditions. It is important that you always keep your vehicle well maintained, but it is crucial during the winter months. There are several preventative steps you should take to prepare your vehicle for the cold weather. In addition to keeping your car running smoothly, these steps can help keep you safe if you must be on the road during a winter storm.
Top Winter Maintenance Tips
Ideally, you should complete the following steps to ensure that your car is prepared for single-digit temperatures, snow, or freezing rain:
Keep your car battery fully charged. When the temperature drops, a car battery’s cranking power is significantly reduced. You can check the battery by removing the cap and checking the fluid level. If the fluid level is low, you can add distilled water. If you have a maintenance-free battery, the window at the top of the battery will indicate whether it is fully charged. Any battery that is older than five years old should be replaced.
Replace wiper blades regularly. Consumer Reports found that even highly rated wiper blades start to become less effective within six months. Streaks on the windshield, or areas where the blade failed to clean the windshield are signs that the windshield wipers need to be replaced.
Clean the car windows. If you cannot see out of the windshield, or any of the other windows, you put yourself and the other passenger in your vehicle at risk of being injured in a serious car accident. Be sure to remove all snow and ice using an ice scraper and keep your windshield washer tank filled with a fluid that contains antifreeze. Run the car heater and direct the air toward the windshield. If the windshield starts to fog up, turn on the air conditioning system.
Check the oil. The oil in your car is affected by cold temperatures. It becomes thick, making it more difficult for the engine to turn over. Be sure to use an oil that has a “W” in the viscosity index. This means that the oil is formulated for winter use. When you bring your vehicle in for maintenance, in addition to the oil, made sure that all the hoses and fluids are checked as well.
Check the tire condition. If the tread on your tires begins to show signs of wear, you should consider purchasing new tires. If you live in an area that sees occasional snow, a full set of all-season tires is a good option. You may want to consider dedicated winter tires mounted on steel wheels if you live in an area that receives a significant amount of snow or ice. All tires should be properly inflated on a regular basis.