Freezing temperatures, ice, and snow can do serious damage to your car or truck. Since your vehicle often represents a major investment, as well as dependable transportation, taking those extra steps to protect your car against that damage only makes sense. Here are 8 easy ways you can stay on the road by maintaining your car this winter.
1. Check your charge. Batteries can be especially vulnerable to corrosion and cold temperatures. According to Consumer Reports, your battery can lose about half its charge when the temperature falls to 0 degrees. So check for corrosion, make sure the cables are tight, and have your battery tested at a service station or auto parts store.
2. Keep things fluid. Your car needs special fluids during cold weather—windshield wiper fluid and antifreeze. Replace your usual wiper fluid with a cold-weather blend that won’t freeze, and check to make sure you’ve got the right mix of coolant (50 percent antifreeze plus 50 percent water) in the radiator.
3. Watch your wipers. Nobody knows winter quite like Chicagoans, so it pays to pay attention when the Chicago Tribune recommends checking your wiper blades and possibly replacing them with a pair specifically designed to meet heavier seasonal demands.
4. Keep the pressure up. Your tires are where the rubber meets the road, literally. Check your tire pressure to make sure it matches the specifications in your owner’s manual.
4. Tread or retread? Check it out. While you’re checking tire pressure, don’t forget to examine your treads. Trent Hamm of U.S. News suggests you stick a Lincoln-head penny between the treads, head first. If you can see Abe’s whole head, you need to replace your tires.
5. Go light on the oil. Check your oil lately? Winter maintenance includes changing your oil if need be and maybe switching to a lower viscosity that will perform better in cold weather.
6. Pay attention to your fuel lines. A can of fuel line antifreeze added to your gas tank can help eliminate water from your fuel lines and prevent freeze-up. Check with your mechanic to see if this might be a good idea for your car.
7. Be the brightest bulb. Visibility becomes a major issue during winter storms, so check your headlights, taillights, and turn signals. You want to be sure not only that they’re working, but that they shine nice and bright. (Did you know you can clean foggy headlights with toothpaste?)
8. Be prepared. No matter how many precautions you take, the unexpected can happen. Be prepared with an in-car emergency kit: jumper cables, flares, a first-aid kit, blankets, and bottled water.
Winter weather presents car owners with unique maintenance challenges. Fortunately, a few ounces of prevention can keep those challenges from turning into major headaches. Using this checklist to go over your car can keep you safe and mobile all winter long.