Winterizing Your Car
In place’s where it gets cold, it is important to winterize your car. Not sticking to manufacturer-scheduled services and regular maintenance can be a costly and dangerous mistake for car owners. And those risks can run even higher in cold winter weather – when worn tires are that much more likely to skid, and a breakdown can mean getting stranded in freezing temperatures. To help keep drivers safe, warm, and in control on the road this winter, here is a list of 10 winterizing car tips that should help drivers get winter vehicle maintenance “down cold.”
Winterize Car Tip #1
Be Proactive about Antifreeze – In a recent Autobytel survey, only 27% of drivers said they regularly replace their antifreeze, and an alarming 35% admitted that they’ve never changed their vehicle’s coolant. Don’t make the same mistake. Your car’s coolant/antifreeze breaks down over time, so be sure to change it (not just add it) before temperatures start to drop. Keep in mind that higher-level coolants don’t necessarily provide higher levels of protection. In fact, while higher-level coolants reduce the freezing point and raise the boiling point, they can actually cause engines to run slightly hotter, leading to oil breakdown and increased wear and tear. Refer to your owner’s manual for the proper coolant level for your vehicle.
Winterize Car Tip #2
Get a Grip on Tire Safety – Sixty-percent of the drivers surveyed by Autobytel (mistakenly) said that a vehicle’s tire inflation specifications can be found on the tires themselves. But, in fact, the pressure indications stamped on the tires refer to the maximum pressure of the tire cold, not the proper driving pressure to ensure optimum handling, safety, and fuel economy. That information can be found either on the inside of the driver’s car door or doorframe, as well as the owner’s manual. Another thing to keep in mind is that tires need to be replaced every six years, even if there’s still plenty of tread. Over time, rubber steadily hardens, making tires less pliant and more slippery on roads.
Winterize Car Tip #3
A Bright Idea: Change Your Lights – Proactively replace your fog, brake, and tail lights before they burn out. It’s a relatively inexpensive job, and it can help you avoid a dangerous situation, particularly in poor-visibility conditions when a burned-out tail light can transform your car into a “motorcycle” in the eyes of upcoming drivers.
Winterize Car Tip #4
Transform Water into …Washer Fluid – Water may suffice for your windshield fluid reservoir in summer, but use a detergent-based formula, which has a much lower freezing point, during the winter. The only thing worse than water getting frozen in the washer dispenser is having it freeze on your windshield.
Winterize Car Tip #5
Slick Oil Tips – In this day and age of confusing SAE grades, synthetics and highly-engineered engines, the old rule of thumb about using a lighter weight oil in winter doesn’t necessarily apply. Refer to your owner’s manual for the weight/grade of oil you should be using seasonally. And always get your oil changed at a dealership. Generally speaking, dealerships are motivated to keep your car running well and know the proper oil for your vehicle. Oil-change retail chains, on the other hand, are motivated to lower costs by using bulk quantities of the same type of oil, whether or not it’s right for your vehicle.
Winterize Car Tip #6
Don’t Wipe out Because of Old Wipers – Wiper blades deteriorate rapidly after one year. Get them changed, before you really need them.
Winterize Car Tip #7
Be Prepared – If you live in a cold climate, be sure to pack a winter emergency kit in your trunk, including blankets, flares, a window scraper, extra antifreeze, and tire chains.
Winterize Car Tip #8
Tire Chains … It’s All in the Timing – Watch your local weather reports to determine the best time to don your chains. You don’t want to get stuck without them during that first big snowfall. But, then again, you don’t want to put them on prematurely either, given that chains dramatically reduce safety, handling and performance in most conditions.
Winterize Car Tip #9
Make Sure Your Kids Winterize Their Cars, Too – A lot of parents, understandably, want their kids to take responsibility for their own vehicles, but the bottom line is that high school and college-age kids are: 1) busy, 2) relatively reckless, and 3) mortal. So if your young-adult kids live or go to school in a cold or wet climate, it’s ultimately up to you to make sure they get their vehicles serviced for winter driving – even if that means making the service appointment yourself. For many parents, the most convenient time to get their kids’ cars into the shop is during college winter break. Whether you make the appointment at a local service center or one in their college town (for example, if they’re flying home for break), make sure to schedule the service well in advance. The period between Christmas and New Year’s Day is generally the busiest time of year at service centers.
Winterize Car Tip #10
Hit the Mats – Don’t forget to break out those winter floor mats to protect your car’s carpets from the water, snow, or mud on your shoes. If you don’t have them for your car, visit your dealership. Given how little mats cost – and how big a difference they can make in terms of your vehicle’s appearance and resale value – it’s well worth the investment.