Can you believe summer is over already? We are going from apple pie in summer to apple cider in fall.
We are all dreading waking up early so we have enough time to scrape our car windows
and turn on defrost. I say let’s be ready this year! No more dead batteries and
squealing belts this winter! Here are 10 collective items you can check on your
vehicle before the winter chill gets here.
1. Get the right kind of oil change. Are you approaching the time
for a 30,000-mile full service on your vehicle? If so, don’t procrastinate!
Among other things, the service should include an oil change, and the oil used
should have the right viscosity, or thickness, for your vehicle at this time of
year. Oil tends to thicken as it gets colder, and if it’s too thick it won’t do
the best job of keeping your engine lubricated. Check your owner’s manual for
guidance about which oil to use in different climates and temperatures.
2. Make sure you can see. When’s the last time you replaced your windshield
wiper blades? They usually work effectively for about one year, so be sure to
invest in some new ones if you’re due. Here’s another important step to take
before you find yourself struggling to see in a blinding storm: Fill up your
windshield washer reservoir with windshield washer fluid. (Plain water won’t do
the trick at this time of year because it freezes.) Also, check to see that
your heater and defroster are working properly so you can keep the windshield
nice and clear. Do not forget a good ice scraper, not the free one you got from
your insurance company.
3. Give your battery a little TLC. This is an ideal time of year to
make sure your battery’s posts and connections are corrosion-free and your
battery has all the water it needs. If your battery is more than three years old,
have a certified repair shop test its ability to hold a charge. Granted, you
might be able to find a Good Samaritan to help you jumpstart your vehicle in
the middle of a blizzard — but wouldn’t you rather avoid such a scenario
4. Examine your belts and hoses. When you have that full service
done on your vehicle, make sure the belts and hoses get checked for wear and
tear — even if you’re driving a modern car. Cold weather can do a number on
belts and hoses, so they deserve attention.
5. Check your tire pressure. Your tires must be properly inflated to ensure
you’ll have the best possible traction as you drive along — and traction is
often severely jeopardized in wet, snowy, or icy conditions. The air pressure
in your tires has likely dropped as the weather has gotten colder, so it’s
important to see where things stand now. (You can generally expect to lose 1
pound per square inch whenever the temperature drops by 10 degrees Fahrenheit.)
Again, your trusty owner’s manual will tell you what your target tire pressure
6. Think about switching to snow tires. Do you live in a hilly place
that gets its fair share of snow? Then you might want to improve traction even
more by investing in winter tires and using them over the next few months instead
of your usual all-season tires. When shopping around for snow tires, ask about
all the fees that might come into play, such as fees for mounting and
balancing. You can accomplish this easily and make accurate cost comparisons by
asking each store for the “out the door charge.”
7. Do you have four-wheel-drive? If so, it’s important to check
the status of your four-wheel-drive system and be sure it’s working correctly —
especially because most drivers don’t use their 4WD systems in the pleasant
summer months. Be sure the system engages and disengages easily, and that all
drivers in your household know how and when to activate the system.
8. Get the antifreeze mixture just right. Aim for having a 50-50 mix of
antifreeze (coolant) and water inside your radiator. This will prevent the
mixture from freezing even at ridiculously cold temperatures. It’s easy to
check the status of the mixture with an inexpensive antifreeze tester, which
you can pick up at any auto parts store. If the mixture is off, your cooling
system should be drained and refilled or flushed. Be sure you’re equipped to
dispose of your old antifreeze properly if you do this job yourself. It can’t
just be poured down the drain.
9. Prepare an emergency kit. Store this stuff in your trunk during the winter
months, especially if a road trip is in your future:
- a blanket
- extra boots and gloves
- an extra set of warm clothes
- extra water and food, including hard candies
- an ice scraper
- a small shovel
- a flashlight
- windshield washer fluid
- windshield wipers
- jumper cables
- a tool kit
- tire chains
- a tire gauge
- a spare tire with air in it
- a first-aid kit
- paper towels
- a bag of abrasive material such as sand, salt or non-clumping kitty litter, which can
provide additional traction if a tire gets stuck in snow.
- Also, keep the gas tank as full as you can to prevent the gas lines from freezing.
10. Know what to do if you get stranded. Don’t wander away from your car
unless you’re completely sure about where you are and how far away help is.
Light two flares and situate them at each end of your vehicle to call attention
to your plight. Put on the extra clothes and use the blanket to stay warm. If
you have enough gas in the tank, run the engine and heater for about 10 minutes
for each hour you’re waiting for help. Leave at least one window open a little
bit so that snow and ice don’t seal the car shut. Suck on a hard candy to
prevent your mouth from getting too dry.