It happens every year. The dog days of summer give way to fall, and before you know it, winter is upon us. Every season poses its particular automotive challenges, but when the frost and freeze strike, many motorists get left out in the cold. Keeping you and your family safe on the road requires intention and planning. Taking the time to ensure your vehicle is ready for the road will save you money, and it might save your life. Here are a few winter car maintenance tips to follow before you hit the road:
Have an Emergency Kit
Every vehicle should have an emergency kit, but many people overlook this essential precaution. You can purchase one of these at any auto parts store or online for as little as $40. In addition to the basic kit, you should keep a blanket, gloves, jumper cables, and a cell phone charger in your vehicle.
Invest in Traction Devices
Average passenger tires are not designed for maximum traction on ice and snow. Carrying a set of chains, or switching to winter tires can keep you on the road and out of the ditch. Tire chains are relatively inexpensive (around $50 to $60) and simple to install, but make sure to practice at least once before the snowy weather hits. Kitty litter or coarse sand can be poured on the icy ground to improve traction in a pinch, so you should carry some just in case.
Inspect Your Battery
The demand on a vehicle’s battery increases in cold weather, particularly at startup. Make a visual inspection. Look for any corrosion on the positive and negative leads connected to the battery. If your battery is more than five years old, it’s probably time for a new one. A load tester is a good investment for the do-it-yourself types and can be purchased for as little as $10. This device will let you know if your battery is working properly, or if it’s time to replace it.
Check Your Fluids
This should be done regularly and all year round, but is especially crucial for winter car maintenance. Don’t let your fuel tank sit empty in freezing conditions, and make sure your oil is filled to manufacturer specifications with the recommended weight and blend. Ensure that the reservoirs for antifreeze, power steering, and transmission fluids are also all filled to the proper levels. Windshield de-icer is essential in many parts of the country, and you’ll use it up fast in nasty winter weather, so fill ‘er up.
Ensure Good Visibility
If you can’t see clearly, you can’t drive. Check your windshield wipers, and if they are stiff and brittle, they need to be replaced. Take the time to inspect your windshield for minor chips and cracks. In winter weather, those small cracks will spread rapidly as the heat from the inside of your car warms the glass. Make sure the heater/defroster is operating properly before you travel. Check all of the lights of your vehicle, including the emergency indicators and high beams.
Visit a Mechanic
Many auto shops offer special promotions during the weeks leading up to winter, so take advantage. A comprehensive inspection of your vehicle is a great way to get you ready to face the elements. If you have your car regularly serviced, then you should have the mechanic take care of the above items for you. A professional inspection may also catch a problem that would lead to a breakdown, which is especially unwelcome in nasty weather.
Remember, if the weather outside is frightful, it might be best to stay at home. We hope these winter car maintenance tips will keep you safely on the road, but Epolito’s Towing is here when you need us. Give us a call if you have questions, we would love to hear from you.