Old Man Winter can be unkind and unforgiving to your vehicle. Whether you drive a coupe or an SUV, winter conditions can pose many challenges on the road.
If you plan to drive in the snow or cold, here are some tips to get your vehicle ready for winter driving:
Examine your tires
As the part of your vehicle that makes contact with the road, tires are your main defense against snow and ice. If you haven’t examined your tires in a while, it may be a good idea to do so before the first snowfall. Check out this Tire Safety Checklist by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for detailed information.
Even if your tires are new or in good condition, you may still want to check their pressure after the first cold night. Fluctuations in temperature can cause tire pressure to vary by 1-10 psi per 10ºC1. If you need help checking the tire pressure or putting air into your vehicle, follow these steps. You may also want to check the tire pressure on your spare just in case.
Stock an emergency kit
When it comes to stocking an emergency kit, it may be better to be over-prepared. Having essentials like water and a blanket could be important if you become stranded during a snowstorm. These supplies may also come in handy if you spot another motorist in need of assistance.
Here are some useful items to include in your emergency kit:
- Clothing layers
- First aid kit
- Flashlight with extra batteries
- Flares or emergency light sticks
- Jumper cables
- Small shovel
- Nonperishable food items
- Water bottles
Replace your wiper blades
Old and worn wiper blades can be a problem when driving in the winter. Instead of clearing the precipitation from your windshield, ineffective rubber stripping could make it harder to see.
If you haven’t replaced your wiper blades in a while, give them a thorough examination. Check to see that the metal arms are straight and the rubber isn’t hard or worn down. If you determine that they need to be replaced, follow these instructions on changing wiper blades before winter starts.
Inspect your battery
Freezing temperatures can be cruel to your engine, especially the battery2. And unlike other parts of your vehicle, batteries may not give a warning before they stop working.
To ensure your battery is ready for winter, try this quick checklist:
- Examine the cables for cracks and breaks
- Make sure the terminals fit tightly
- Measure the battery fluid level and refill with distilled water if necessary
If you are uncomfortable inspecting your battery, please visit a certified mechanic or service technician to perform the work.
Check your coolant/antifreeze
In the warmer months, coolant/antifreeze prevents your engine from overheating. In the winter, however, this very same liquid prohibits your engine lines from freezing. Therefore, it’s important to have a proper level of antifreeze in your radiator to avoid engine damage and keep your vehicle safe to drive. If you’re unsure of how to check your coolant/antifreeze, use this guide.
Add winter-blend windshield washer fluid
Winter-blend windshield washer fluid can be very helpful in colder climates. If you live in an area where they salt the roads, the blend of slush and salt can create a thick coating on your windshield. Basic wiper fluid can be ineffective in removing this winter grime and make it difficult to see the road. Try to carry a spare jug in your trunk to have extra fluid on hand.
Put safety first
Whether you love winter or want to hibernate until April, you can’t ignore the change in driving conditions. Getting your vehicle ready for winter driving won’t only keep you safe; it will keep others on the road safe as well. Buckle up and drive safe!