Keeping Your Car Safe for Winter Driving
The shorter days and below-freezing temperatures of January and February can make winter driving conditions more difficult. If you take some precautions before driving you can minimize your chances of getting stranded in the cold.
Visibility is easily compromised by dark nights. With daylight savings time, nearly all of us drive home from work in the dark during the winter.
- Check heaters and defrosters to make sure they are operating correctly.
- Inspect wiper blades for cracking, squeaking, skipping or streaking. Generally, wiper blades should be replaced every six months. Consider winter wiper blades and use cold-weather washer fluid.
- Test all exterior and interior lights (including hazards) to make sure they are operational.
Traction and Braking
Proper tires and good brakes can be the difference between getting into an accident or avoiding one–especially on slippery winter roads.
- Measure the tread depth of tires to ensure ample grip. Consider replacing tires when only 4/32” of tread remains as this is the point when traction begins to be compromised.
- Inflate your tires to the proper tire pressure and continue to check tire pressure weekly, as dropping temperatures tend to cause fluctuations in tire pressure. Don’t forget the spare!
- Have brakes inspected to be sure both rotors and pads have enough thickness to get you through the season.
Get Started and Run Smoothly
Nothing is worse than a stalled car in a freezing parking lot.
- Have your battery and charging system tested by a certified technician. When temperatures become colder, turning over an engine can take up to twice as much current as needed under more favorable conditions**.
- Follow your recommended oil change interval outlined in your owner’s manual. Engine oil thickens in cold weather and dirty oil can spell trouble when this happens.
- Inspect belts and hoses as changing weather tends to cause them to crack, tear or swell.
- Clean, flush and put new antifreeze in the cooling system. As a rule of thumb, this should be done every two years***.
- Keep your gas tank at least half full throughout the cold weather to prevent condensation build-up in gas lines and possibly freezing.
- Have the exhaust system checked for carbon monoxide leaks, which can be especially dangerous during cold weather when windows are closed and idling engines to warm up cars are common.
Keep the essentials handy in case of a sudden storm or roadside emergency.
- Have an ice scraper and snow brush accessible at all times. An extra pair of gloves might come in handy when you’re clearing your car of snow and ice.
- Stock an emergency kit with jumper cables, a flashlight, blankets, extra clothes, bottled water, nonperishable food and a first aid kit with any needed medication.
While the cold is unavoidable, you can make sure you’re able to get around reliably and safety, even with the challenges mother nature throws at cars with the weather.