Why do I need to prepare my car for winter?
Even if you’re not yet reaching for your coat, roads and cars are already feeling the cold of winter. Temperatures are dropping and most of our annual rainfall is expected at this time of year. Dust and the first rains make for hazardous and unpredictable road conditions. Breakdowns and accidents are more likely to happen in winter when weather is generally rainy or cold either because road conditions are impaired or because our car hasn’t been prepared to handle the changes in climate.
How does winter affect my car?
Winter weather is much harsher on your car. Your car generally lives outdoors and is exposed almost 24/7 to the elements – even when you’re not out on the roads. The temperature drop, winds and frost that winter brings all affect the working order of various car components so it’s always good idea to have them checked out and ensure they’re in tip top form.
What do I need to check?
It’s common sense to check and change your windscreen wipers. But it’s equally important to check under the hood and the parts that aren’t outwardly visible. The battery, brakes, tires, lights and car fluids are all essential for safe, reliable winter driving.
How can I improve my car’s road handling on wet, slippery roads?
Road handling is largely determined by the state of the parts that come into contact with the road. Slippery driving can spell disaster for brakes that are problematic (even if they haven’t shown any sign of a problem). Don’t take the chance of losing control of your car and make sure you ask for a brake check.
The condition of the tread on your tires also affects how well your car holds the road. With decreased traction comes decreased control. We also recommend that you have your tires aligned and possibly rotated. If your tires are fairly new, you can skip this one, but if they’ve covered a lot of ground you should have them checked. When all four tires have been turning the same way for a period of time, they all develop the same wear and tear in the same places, making them more susceptible to diminished performance. If they can be rotated such that the tread wears differently on each tire, it keeps them fresher and helps avoid wayward behavior.
With short winter days that bring less hours of light, as well as many potential days of rain and low visibility, it’s crucial to visible by other drivers under all driving conditions. So make sure your front and back lights are working and clean.
It doesn’t really snow here. Do I still have to worry about frost and freeze?
Yes. Remember that your car spends a lot of time in direct contact with the elements and even if the temperatures aren’t cold enough to drop snow, they can still affect the fluids in your car. Make sure that your car has sufficient anti-freeze. If your anti-freeze is low, it could freeze fairly quickly and won’t be able to flow through and cool off the engine, which in turn could overheat and cause major problems that compromise your safety.
Your windshield wiper fluid is also susceptible to freezing. Summer blends contain mostly water, but you might want to get an alcohol-based blend that helps prevent the fluid from freezing. Check what other winter fluids are available by your car service shop as well.
What contingency items should I have in the car for winter?
At the beginning of the season, put emergency items in your trunk and glove compartment and check them regularly. These can include blankets, boots, gloves and other winter accessories, such as an umbrella, in case you have a breakdown or somehow get caught in the cold without a working vehicle. Keep a gasoline keg in the trunk as well. Water is always a good idea in any weather, as are jumper cables, which are even more crucial for potential winter hazards.
Before you set out on a trip, make sure you’re fueled up. You don’t want to run out of gas in the rain or freezing cold in the middle of nowhere. Keep that keg of gasoline in your car, literally for a rainy day – although if you’re careful to fuel up before you set out, you should never need it. One smart system is to never let your car go below half full. Even though you’ll be filling up more often, you’ll be ensuring a car that runs.
What other winter hazards should I be aware of?
If your car is due for a tune-up, take care of it before winter starts. Slow starts, subpar performance and other issues should be dealt with in advance since winter weather can make any problem worse. A general service can make the difference between efficient winter driving and headaches that can put you in the shop when you need your car most or just don’t have the time for hiccups.
Carbon monoxide leaks can be particularly dangerous during winter when windows are mostly closed. We often hear unfortunate stories that could have been avoided had leaks been detected earlier. Don’t wait; get your car checked right away. Avoid keeping your car running for long periods of time while stationary, which could cause carbon monoxide buildup in the car. If for some reason you must keep it idling, keep the windows open. If you’re worried about letting the cold in, take out some of those blankets and warm items you stored in the trunk.
With minimum time and monetary investment you can have your car ready to take on winter, maximize efficiency and get you safely from A to B.
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