Tis the season for waking up to frost-covered windows, which means it’s time to winterize your car before the cold starts really setting in. There are a number of things you’ll need to check, from your tire pressure to the type of engine oil you’re using. However, putting in a little effort now could save you a lot of money and hassle when the weather gets even colder.
The ever-fluctuating temperatures between the fairly warm fall leftovers and the cold taste of the season to come can wreak havoc on your tire pressure. Once the temperature levels out a bit, you’ll want to check the pressure and possibly add some more air. Most gas stations have an air pump you can use. Consult your owner’s manual to see what your tire pressure should be. If you live in a particularly harsh climate, you may want to consider adding tire chains to your wheels. Make sure you check your city’s regulations on them, as they tear up the road faster and are prohibited in many locations.
Winter weather can also be rough on your battery. Make sure it’s in top condition before the coldest weather sets in so you’re not left stranded in a cold parking lot. You should check the cables that connect to your battery first. They should be free of corrosion and fitting snugly. If they’re not, you can buy battery cleaner and a stiff brush to remove the corrosion yourself. Be sure to turn the car off and remove the key before doing any work on the battery.
3. Windshield and Exterior
Your windshield needs a little extra care during the cold months. For an easier winter season, consider applying a glass lubricant that will make your windshield easier to clean. You should also make sure you have plenty of windshield fluid and that your wiper blades are still good. Your exterior should be cleaned and waxed before roads start getting salted and filled with slush. Ideally, you’ll also get an underbody protective coat. Wash your car more often in the winter months, too, since the road salt is very harmful to your paint.
4. Engine oil, belts and hoses
You may need to switch up the type of oil you’re using. The cold air makes your oil thicker, which could mean a large difference between how your car will run in the winter and summer. You should also inspect your belts and hoses, or have them inspected by a mechanic. These become more brittle in the cold, which means they’re more likely to break if they’re already fraying.
5. Safety Kit
You should always have a safety kit in your trunk, but now’s the perfect time to pack one if you don’t. You should carry:
- A crank flashlight, or one whose batteries you check often
- A blanket, gloves and a hat
- Cat litter so you can get traction when your car’s stuck
- An ice scraper
- Energy bars with generous expiration dates
- Bottled water
- A small shovel
- A small first-aid kit
- Jumper cables
- Some basic tools
- Road flares
You can either distribute these items throughout your car, or pack them all into an easy-to-reach box in your trunk. As long as you know where your items are if you need them, you should be ready for whatever winter throws at you.
Take some time now to make sure you’re ready for the cold weather. Most of these steps just take a little time and can save you major frustration (and possibly a towing bill) later on in the season.