Driving in Winter Takes Preparation

Walking in a winter wonderland is a beautiful sight but safely driving through the glistening snow can rattle your nerves if you and your car aren’t prepared for winter. The Car Care Council suggests motorists have their vehicles winterized before harsh weather arrives and especially before embarking on road trips for the holidays. According to the council, the following steps will help get your vehicle ready for winter:

  • Clean, flush and put new antifreeze in the cooling system. The owner’s manual will have usage specifications but the mixture of antifreeze (coolant) and water inside your vehicle’s radiator is typically 50:50. As a reminder, don’t make the mistake of adding 100 percent antifreeze, as full-strength antifreeze actually has a lower freeze point than when mixed with water. In the process, check containers, belts, hoses, the pressure caps and thermostat.
  • Check heaters, defrosters and wipers to ensure they are working properly. Wiper blades that are cracked or torn, or that chatter, streak and don’t properly clean your windshield should be replaced. Some manufacturers offer special winter blades that have a rubber boot covering the arm assembly to keep snow and ice out. When changing the blades, have the windshield wiper system nozzles cleaned and adjusted if necessary, and check the windshield washer reservoir in case it needs fluid.
  • Check the battery and charging system for optimum performance. Cold weather is hard on batteries and unfortunately, batteries don’t always give warning signs before they fail completely. If your vehicle’s battery is three years old or more, it’s wise to replace it. When choosing a replacement, make sure the new one has adequate capacity for your exact make and model.
  • Check the tire tread depth and tire pressure. Tires lose pressure when temperatures drop. If snow and ice are a problem in your area, consider special tires designed to grip slick roads.
  • The Car Care Council recommends changing your vehicle’s engine oil every 3,000 to 5,000 miles depending on your vehicle make and model, how you drive and the conditions in which you drive. Dirty oil can spell trouble in winter. The council recommends changing to a low-viscosity oil in winter as it will flow more easily between moving parts when cold. Have your automotive service technician check the fuel, air and transmission filters at the same time. Always consult your vehicle’s owner’s manual.
  • Schedule a tune-up as winter magnifies existing problems, such as pings, hard starts, sluggish performance or rough idling. A routine tune-up will restore a vehicle back to its normal operating state, and contribute to the overall efficiency of the engine and emissions system.
  • Check the brakes. This braking system is the vehicle’s most important safety item and brakes are a normal wear item that sooner or later will need to be replaced.
  • Check the exhaust system for carbon monoxide leaks, which can be especially dangerous during cold weather driving when windows are closed. Regular exhaust system checks are critical to maintain a safe vehicle.

“It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holidays and overlook getting a vehicle ready for winter,” said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. “A vehicle that is ready for winter road conditions and colder temperatures will likely be safer and more reliable, giving motorists one less thing to worry about when heading out for the holidays.” The council also reminds drivers to keep the gas tank half full at all times to decrease the chances of moisture forming in the gas lines and possibly freezing. Drivers should also check the tire pressure of the spare and pack an emergency kit with the following items: ice scraper and snow brush, jumper cables, flashlight, flares, blanket, extra clothes, candles/matches, bottled water, dry food snacks and needed medication.     

The Car Care Council is the source of information for the “Be Car Care Aware” consumer education campaign promoting the benefits of regular vehicle care, maintenance and repair to consumers. For more information, visit www.carcare.org