Winter Car Care Tips for the Holiday Season
The holidays are approaching, and many places are already feeling the cold. Which means that it’s time to think about preparing your car for the winter.
Now, certain places don’t have to worry so much about winter car care tips if their temperature never gets below 50 degrees. That is, until a freak ice storm hits and they are left unable to drive or stuck on the side of the highway. The truth of the matter is that with even some basic preparation and some regular upkeep that should be part of your schedule anyway, you can have a car prepared for cold weather, icy road conditions, and everything in between this holiday season.
Winterize Your Car
Perhaps the most important thing to do for your car is to winterize it. Winter care for your car starts with paying extra attention to the things that it needs (like oil, fluids, etc.) that can withstand cold winter months. Some basics that you can get on top of before winter weather sets in are
- Replace your windshield wiper fluid with cold weather appropriate fluid so it does not freeze.
- Make sure that your radiator is full of antifreeze mixture.
- Make sure that your tires have enough tread to grip the road. You can use the “Lincoln Test” here: put a penny in your tire treads, with Lincoln’s head facing down. If you can see the top of his head, your treads are low and will probably have trouble gripping the road.
Any good mechanic will check for these points anyway during your routine oil changes and will make suggestions to what’s needed especially during winter weather.
Put Together a Travel Safety Kit
This preparation is pretty easy to do, and yet you’d be surprised to know how many people don’t actually do it. If you are going to be driving in cold weather or inclement weather conditions, then you should have a safety kit on hand in preparation for that event. Some of the basic necessities for such a winter car kit include:
- Tools for changing out tires.
- An inflated spare tire or doughnut.
- Flashlights and batteries.
- A portable charger for cell phones.
- Jumper cables.
- Blankets, gloves, and extra coats.
- A small shovel.
- Kitty litter or sand for traction if you get stuck on ice.
- A first aid kit.
- Extra food and water.
This might seem excessive to some, especially if you have never been caught in the cold with car troubles. But when it happens, you’ll be glad you went the extra mile.
Check your Battery
Most people believe that hot weather causes car batteries to fail, but it is actually cold weather that makes our batteries work hard.
Before cold weather settles in, have your mechanic check your battery and have him perform a load test. This test will confirm that your battery holds the required charge. This test is not the same as the test some parts stores offer. Their test will only tell what the charge at the time of the test is, not if your battery will actually maintain this charge. Also make sure the terminals of the battery are clean and properly connect with the battery cables. The green and white crusty stuff you can see around the terminal, is battery acid and can actually prevent making a good contact, so make sure the terminals are clean. Battery issues will usually manifest itself by intermittent starting problems. Replace your windshield wipers for brand new ones, if necessary, and keep the wipers off of the windshield during ice or snowstorms. Ice and rain can freeze a wiper to your windshield, damaging the blade and making it impossible to clear water and snow from your view. If your wipers are frozen to the windshield, don’t try to pry them loose and wait to clear the window until the defroster has done its job. Resist the urge to clear the window before, so you won’t damage the frail rubber on the blades.
Get Any Necessary Equipment, Based on Location and Driving Conditions
This will be location- and vehicle-dependent but can save you a headache if you are caught in bad driving conditions.
Many safe winter travel tips include putting chains on your tires. Cars and trucks driving on ice should have road chains ready to cover their tires. This is doubly true for vehicles driving in the mountains or other hilly areas. Or, if you want, you could consider getting specialty snow tires for your vehicles and change them out at the start of winter.
Get a Full-Service Check-Up
As part of every oil change that we do, we perform a visual inspection of the entire vehicle which includes checking
- All the fluid levels (transmission, coolant, oil, brakes).
- All the belts and hoses.
- The battery and the battery connections.
- Tire tread and age.
Find a Mechanic You Trust
Finally, don’t settle for a quick lube. Find a mechanic that you can trust to check your car, because the more a mechanic knows about your vehicle, and that includes maintenance services, repairs and/or the entire work history, the easier it is for him to figure out what needs replaced or repaired before the holidays start.
Even if you are in “famously hot” Columbia, SC, where we don’t really have to worry or prepare for most of “winter”-related issues, it can still be beneficial for you to develop a winter car care routine. Prepare for the hap hazard ice storms and snow, or just be ready for that February chill, or a trip up to the mountains by consulting with your local mechanic about the steps you can take to provide car care this winter.