If you took a vacation and chose to drive, you probably got a tune-up and check-up for your vehicle before traveling. Because most people try to be proactive during the summer months, they usually think that they don’t need more maintenance when it turns colder and the winter creeps up. However, this lull between summer vacations and winter holidays is the perfect time to prepare your car for winter. While breakdowns are never convenient, they can be downright dangerous in colder weather.
If your vehicle was purchased secondhand and didn’t come with one, you can likely look up your vehicle online and get a manual. You can then download it to your computer/smartphone or print it out to have at all times.
It’s a good idea to check your manual to find out what your manufacturer recommends for servicing.
If you already know that your vehicle likes to hard-start, idles roughly, stalls, or has diminished power, now is the time to find a repair shop and have these issues corrected. Realizing these issues now can prevent problems when the weather turns cold, as colder temperatures make those existing problems even worse.
While fuel itself cannot freeze, especially in a vehicle, excess moisture can get into the fuel lines and freeze, causing significant problems. Therefore, it’s a good idea to keep some fuel de-icer on hand and put one bottle in your fuel tank each month. It’s also essential to keep the gas tank full or always at a half a tank to prevent moisture from happening at all.
If you find that you’re always in stop-and-go traffic or you have many short trips to the corner store, you should consider changing your oil more often than what’s recommended by the manufacturer.
Before winter sets in, you should have the cooling system flushed and refilled. Of course, you should also follow manufacturer recommendations first. Even if your system doesn’t need to be flushed, you should still check the level, concentration, and condition of the liquid periodically. If you’re unsure how to do this yourself, consider going to a trusted mechanic. They should also check the condition and tightness of your drive belts, hoses, clamps, and more.
At the first sign of moisture development (such as a cool morning where the temperature inside the vehicle is warmer because of your body heat), consider checking the defroster and heater to ensure that they work. This is not only to help you feel comfortable but also to promote safe visibility while driving.
If your windshield wiper blades are worse-for-wear, consider replacing them before snowfall or ice. Along with such, you should purchase windshield wiper fluid and keep it on hand. It can actually melt the ice buildup and help you get moving faster. Along with such, an ice-scraper is an invaluable tool.
You cannot detect weak batteries without the proper equipment. However, you can go to many auto-repair shops and have your battery tested, usually for free. You can also request your mechanic to check the battery during routine maintenance.
While you shouldn’t necessarily wait for winter, focus on the lights and make sure they work correctly. If you have any burned out bulbs, replace them quickly. You may also want to clean off grime from the lenses of the headlights by using a moist towel or cloth, though you should ensure it is moist and not dry.
Worn out tires are one of the most dangerous things about a vehicle, especially during winter. The goal is to give yourself as much traction as possible in snow and ice, which isn’t possible if the tires are worn too much or have no tread. You should also pay close attention to uneven wear, cupping, and check the sidewalls for nicks and cuts. Along with such, consider checking the tire pressure once a month or more often if you tend to have low-air tires in the cold weather. It’s also a good idea to check your spare tire and make sure you have a jack in case you have to change it on the road.
Many things can go wrong with the exhaust system, but it tends to be worse in the winter. Many people sit in their cars while the vehicle warms up, which can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. Therefore, have a mechanic put your car on a lift to check for leaks, including the floorboards and trunk. If small leaks are noticed, they can advise you on how to proceed and repair the issue.
Stored in the Trunk
While most people only focus on preventing issues by performing routine maintenance, you should always be prepared for any instance. There could come a time where you have a flat and have to get out in the freezing snow or ice. Therefore, make sure you have warm gloves, boots, flashlights, and a cell phone in your trunk. In case you get stranded overnight, or for many hours, it’s best to carry a blanket as well as high-energy snacks, such as nuts or protein bars.
Along with such, you should have a small shovel (fold-away ones work well), tire chains if applicable, and sand/kitty litter. The sand/kitty litter can give you more traction in icy/snowy conditions, and it’s easier to sprinkle with a shovel.