Tis’ the season for winterizing your car! I covered this topic last year, right about this time, but it’s always good to be reminded of what to do to prepare your car for cold weather. I’m delighted to say that this year’s rendition is from a “guest” author. (Special thank you to Doug Climenhaga!) And now, without further adieu……
As the holidays approach we all know it is “that time of year” to get the coats, hats and gloves ready. And while we prepare ourselves to compensate for the colder temperatures we must remember to prepare our vehicles for sub-freezing temperatures as well. Your safety on the road from December to February can be greatly increased with only a few steps.
You don’t need a garage full of tools or grease under your fingernails to prepare your car for colder weather. Follow these simple tips to winterize your car for three months of warm and safe winter driving.
Check Windshield Wipers and Wiper Fluid
Remember that time you were driving and couldn’t see through the salt, slush, and grime on your windshield? What saved you? Pressing the wiper fluid button. Too many people forget how important wiper fluid is for safe winter driving, so be sure your reservoir is full every two weeks.
Checking your wipers is easy, too. Look for cracks in the rubber coating and make sure they glide easily over the glass with no hopping or bumping. If you need to replace them, simply remove the blade from the wiper arm and take it into an automotive store. The clerk will find you a new set and you will be ready to wipe away anything winter throws at you.
Check Antifreeze Levels and Mixture
Although radiator fluid is important year-round to regulate engine temperature, the name “antifreeze” clearly signifies its importance in the winter. A 50/50 mix of water and antifreeze ensures your engine starts and runs smoothly in subzero temperatures.
Every vehicle has an antifreeze reservoir in the engine. There will be a fill line for you to reference and your family mechanic will most likely check your antifreeze mixture for free. Your mechanic may also recommend a coolant flush to drain the old antifreeze, clean out the system and add a new mixture. Old coolant is full of dirt and rust particles that can damage your cooling system.
Inspect Tire Pressure and Tread Depth
Sleet, slush and ice are no match for a quality set of tires. Before winter starts be sure to check the tire pressure and tread depth to ensure optimal performance. Under-inflated or bald tires offer no help on slick and dangerous roads.
Check the inside of your driver’s door or your owner’s manual for the correct tire pressure. You can find a tire gauge at any automotive store. The “penny test” is an easy way to check the tread. Place the penny upside down into several areas of the tread. If you see the top of Lincoln’s head, you need new tires. If you don’t, you should be good to go.
Prepare an Emergency Kit
Nobody expects his or her vehicle to break down, slide off the road or get in an accident. Things just happen. But when you find yourself on the side of the road with no warm vehicle to sit inside of, how do you protect yourself from the elements?
It’s always wise to prepare for the worst and a Winter Emergency Kit can easily fit in the corner of your trunk. Buy a plastic container with a lid and fill it with the following items: First Aid kit, blankets, gloves, hats, water, energy bars, a flashlight, reflective markers, matches, an ice scraper and jumper cables.
Keep Gas Tank Half Full
Nobody wants to run out of gas during the winter but the reason for keeping a half tank goes far beyond inconvenience. Shifting temperatures in the winter cause condensation to form on the walls of the gas tank that eventually drip down into the gas. And since water is heavier than gas it sinks to the bottom of your tank.
The more water-to-gas ratio in your tank the higher chances you have of introducing water to your fuel lines, and if they reach 32° or below they will freeze and block your engine of the fuel it needs to start and run properly. By keeping at least half a tank you will always have a dominant gas-to-water condensation ratio. Fill your tank now and refill when you get to half a tank—it’s that easy.
About the guest author:
Doug Climenhaga is president of SVI International, Inc. (http://www.sviinternational.com/), a leading supplier of parts for industrial lift equipment. With more than 20 years experience in the hydraulic and automotive lift industries, he holds two patents and has designed scores of problem-solving products.