Preparing Your Car for Winter

Winter weather can be a fabulous thing. But that winter wonderland that we hear about in song can wreak havoc on your car. It’s always best to be prepared, so there are several things to look out for when “winterizing” your car, or preparing it for the winter months ahead.

* Make sure that all of the belt and hoses are in good working order. You should look for cracks in belts and soft areas on hoses. These parts are typically inexpensive and should be replaced if problems exist.
* Check your battery for signs of corrosion. Cable ends should be cleaned and charging power should be checked. Regardless, if your battery is over four years old, it should be replaced.
* Oil and fluid receptacles should be full. This should be the time to change your oil.
* Change worn wiper blades. Sand and dirt (among other particles) that get ground into old blades can damage windshield glass, especially in those freezing winter months. Windshield wiper reservoirs should be filled with the proper fluid – not water. You should check the washer fluid every time you fill up for gas. When planning to go on a long trip, be sure to have a spare gallon of fluid in your trunk in case you run low.
* Flush the cooling system and replace the coolant.
* Take the car in for a tune-up, especially if it is due. This should be done in advance of the winter months.
* Tire pressure should be checked and a spare tire should be properly inflated. A good amount of tread on tires will give better grip, so take a look at the treat. The grooves should not be worn down to the tire wear bars (those ridges of rubber that run perpendicular to the tire grooves). If they are, tires should be replaced. Snow tires are a good option, especially for rear wheel drive cars, or cars with low profile, high performance tires. High performance tires are designed to stick to dry pavement, but can be dangerous in winter weather conditions. Snow tires are available that can be added to the tires you already own on your car – ask about this at your local tire store.
* Make sure that your tire-changing equipment is all in order and stored in the proper location in the car.
* Check brakes for problems and add brake fluid as needed.
* Spray a lubricant, such as WD-40 on all door and trunk locks. Lubricant such as this is widely available at auto parts and hardware stores, and helps eliminate freezing.
* Why buy cat litter if you don’t have a cat? Keep it in the trunk to use for traction on ice or snow.
* Emergency articles should be kept in the trunk in case of an accident or the possibility of getting stranded in bad weather. A small first-aid kit, flashlight, spare batteries, a spare jacket or coat, blankets, gloves, an ice scraper, flares, a small shovel, and snacks such as energy bars should all be included. A set of jumper cables are a must-have item in winter weather.
* Make sure that all of the lights, the defroster, and heater are in working order and replace any dead bulbs and fuses.
* Consider replacing your floor mats with rubber all-weather mats. The carpet mats that look so beautiful with your interior now will look terrible after only one winter of snow, dirt, and other articles transferred from shoes and ground into the fibers. Save the nicer floor mats for beautiful weather. If you have to kneel outside of your car in winter weather, you can use one of the all-weather mats as a cushion to protect your clothing.
* Though most people already have one, a cell-phone is necessary. Being able to call for help from the safety (and warmth) of your car is a better alternative than trying to flag down another motorist or walking to a nearby location.
* One of the most important things you can do is keep from running out of gas in winter. Never let your car reach less than half a tankful. Consider adding a de-icer to your fuel to keep moisture in the fuel system from freezing.

With the right measures in place, driving somewhere in wintery weather doesn’t seem near as frightening. Just remember, no matter where you finally park your car, be sure to lift the windshield wipers off of the windshield of the car. While it might look a little odd, this little trick helps you out – first by ensuring that your windshield wipers won’t stick to the windshield and second by protecting your wipers from damage that could occur when you’re clearing away snow and ice! All of these things might seem like such a hassle at the time, but one can never be too careful, especially when planning to drive in winter weather.

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