Caring for your car can already be challenging if you are not fully cognizant of the basics. Throw in the winter season and the challenge can easily turn into nightmare. Driving in near-zero visibility roads with the pavement even slicker than an ice skating rink; taking your car on the road any time during winter can really be nerve-wracking. However, it doesn’t really have to be this way. Keeping your vehicle in tiptop shape especially in the freezing months should help you feel more confident driving in the icy roads. Here’s how to properly winterize your car for the cold season.
Check and fix your car’s lights
One of the greatest hazards when driving in the dead of winter is that daylight is usually shorter. Sometimes even if you know that Mr. Sun is technically still in the sky, the day can turn into night significantly decreasing visibility. As such, your car’s lighting should be in tip top shape. You want your headlights and even fog lights to give you the best possible illumination of the road for your safety and the safety of other motorists.
Checking the integrity of your headlights and other car lighting fixtures should be fairly easy. Even before winter starts you should already have it checked by a licensed automotive electrician if you cannot do it yourself. You might even want to consider replacing the bulbs on your headlights with something that can give you more illumination for the winter.
Check and replace your engine oil if needed
If you haven’t changed your engine oil yet, now’s the perfect time to do it. Oil has this very peculiar ability to thicken when the temperature gets unusually low. This makes it more difficult to turn your engine over since it will take an unusually longer period of time to get the oil circulating throughout your engine. In some cases, you might crank it up but often at the expense of damaging your engine. That is why even before the winter months set in, you should already have your engine oil changed and your motor oil filter replaced.
Ditch the conventional motor oil in favor of synthetics especially those with lower SAE ratings, preferably in the region of 0W to 10W, although 5W would be perfect. These grades of motor oil provide you with the best engine turnover performance in low temperature environmental conditions, protecting your engine, and saving you precious resources.
Roll on with winter tyres
The road can be really slippery during the winter months. Even if you will be driving at a snail’s pace if the contact patch between the tread blocks of your tyres simply cannot maintain its grip on the icy road surface, you’d still be gliding on the road more like a toboggan than a car. A few weeks before the first snow falls from the sky, you should start preparing your winter tyres.
Depending on the road conditions in your area you can choose from either snow and ice configuration or snow and mud construction. Either way, your best chances of staying safe while on the icy road is for your vehicle to be mounted with tyres that come with tiny metal studs fully impregnated into the tread blocks. These metal studs will serve more like the spikes on your snow shoes so your car won’t be behaving like a ballerina on ice.
Check your antifreeze and top it off if necessary
There’s a reason why your engine has its own cooling system. Just the thought of mechanical parts moving at several thousand movements per second is simply amazing. This generates heat. And while during the summer you can pour your engine coolant into your radiator anytime you wish, many forget to do the same during the winter. Your antifreeze makes sure that the cooling solution needed by your engine is working just fine.
Do understand, however, that the antifreeze should be mixed with equal parts of distilled water. So, if you have a quart of antifreeze, you are supposed to combine this with a quart of distilled water before pouring it into your engine coolant reservoir. Of course, if you buy those antifreeze products that are ready to use, then there clearly is no need to mix it with distilled water.
Check your battery
You need your car’s battery to perform the initial task of starting the various electronic circuits of your vehicle before it starts. Unfortunately, batteries also have a very peculiar behavior where they don’t necessarily operate that normally during the cold months. As such, if you think your battery is already weak in the warm months, it would be as good as dead in the winter. Make sure to check its power using a voltmeter. If you don’t know how to perform this test, then you can bring it to the shop and have a professional assess the integrity of your battery.
Also, take this opportunity to check the terminals in your battery. The cold months can bring in one nasty consequence – corrosion. As such, it is important to check for signs of rusting in the battery terminals. If there aren’t any now’s the time to get hold of your jar of Vaseline and apply some onto the battery terminals. Make sure to disconnect the terminals and clean them thoroughly first before putting a generous coat of Vaseline as protection against corrosion.
Check your windows and other glass fixtures for cracks and fix them
It is inadvertent that small cracks on windows and car lights develop over time especially when exposed to extremes of weather. Unfortunately, dismissing these as a normal part of a vehicle’s life only worsens the problem. Cracks may be small. However, if they freeze, you are actually sealing water inside these cracks. This can worsen the crack. So pay close attention to where these cracks are and employ a more definitive fix. You don’t need to replace the entire glass itself but you can somehow perform some sort of a temporary patchwork solution just to keep moisture from getting inside.
Replace your car’s wiper blades
Snow is a different substance compared to rain. In the winter months your wiper blades will be taking most of the beating, wiping off snow buildup and even chunks of solid ice on your windshield. As such, you need to ask yourself when the you replaced your wiper blades last. If it was more than 6 months ago, then it’s time to fit in a new blade.
Experts recommend that wiper blades, even the so-called best-performing ones, tend to lose their wiping effectiveness in as short as 6 months. Sure, you can always perform the usual wiper blade cleaning ritual every time you go out, but this is simply not the solution in the winter months owing to the very nature of the things that your wiper blades have to clean from the windshield. As such, getting a fresh pair of good quality wiper blades is still the best way to do it. Besides, replacing the wiper blades doesn’t require a professional.
Clear out your windows
No matter how good your wiper blades are, it simply isn’t the best solution for removing snow that has already built-up on your windshield. Before you head out in the morning and notice that there’s an inch thick or so of snow on your windshield, don’t ever turn on the wiper blades to clear out the window. Instead, get a snow scraper and gently remove the snow and ice that have built up overnight on the windshield. Also, if you are going to leave your car in the bitter cold, make sure to raise your wipers off the surface of your car’s windshield. This helps prevent freezing the wipers onto the windshield.
Additionally, since it will be snowing throughout the day, it is best to keep your windshield washer reservoir filled with an appropriate solution. Ideally it should contain an antifreeze agent so you can operate your wipers optimally even while you’re on the road.
The heating mechanism in your car is also vital in keeping your windows clear. Make sure that the heater is operating normally and that you can actually feel warm air being directed towards your windshield whenever the settings are set to defrost. You may also want to switch on your air conditioning unit to help dehumidify the air inside your vehicle and prevent fogging on the windshield. All of these will help keep your windows clear, increasing safety while driving in winter.
Always keep your gas tank full
Keeping a gas tank full can help prevent the moisture that may have accumulated in the fuel pump from freezing. Additionally, you’ll never know how long you’ll get stuck in the middle of a ravaging snow storm. You’ll need to keep your engine running. And to do that, you’d have to have fuel in your gas tank.
Taking very simple steps to ensuring the optimum performance of your car can help you save a lot during the winter months. It can also help you stay safe while driving on icy roads.