Frigid temperatures and frozen precipitation may conspire against your car, but if you’re sufficiently prepared, then you should avoid most problems with ease. Here are 7 steps to winterize your car and get it ready to face whatever winter has in store for you:
1. Inspect the Battery
Your car’s battery is the central nerve system for your vehicle. If it fails to crank, you’re not going anywhere. Before winter settles in, inspect the battery to ensure that all connection points are clean and free of debris. You can go one step further to ensure that the battery has enough life remaining by testing it with a voltmeter — it must read 12.45 volts or higher, otherwise the battery must be recharged or may need to be replaced.
2. Check the Tires
Your tires should have sufficient tread and also be inflated to your car manufacturer’s recommendations. If you live in a snowy climate, winter tires should be installed to obtain the best grip.
Tires supply road traction, but it’s your brake system that helps bring your vehicle to a stop. Inspect the front and rear brake pads for wear, as well as the rotors and drums. Install new brake pads or shoes as needed and resurface or replace the brake rotors or drums. Brake bleeding and fluid change may also be necessary. Lastly, replace any brake lines, hoses or components that have worn out.
4. Change the Oil
When was the last time you changed your car’s oil? Getting this done before winter settles in ensures that the oil is fresh. Besides, who wants to change their oil in biting winds or as the snow piles high?
5. Examine the Coolant System
Coolant, also known as antifreeze, regulates the temperature of your engine by raising the boiling point in the summer, and lowering the freezing point in winter. If the fluid has lost its color or if you spot rusty particles floating in the fluid, then flush the system and replace it with new coolant. Check the hoses as well — if they feel squishy to the touch or if you notice bulges, then replace them.
6. Test the Lights
Vehicle lights can burn out at any time. Functioning headlamps, daytime running lights, fog lamps, turn signal lights, brake, backup and interior lights should be in working order. You can make this job easier by having someone observe each light as you activate and deactivate them.
7. Consider the Heating System
Turn on the heating system and place it on the highest setting. Next, test both the front and rear defrosters. If you’re not getting enough heat, a defroster element or cabin air filter may need replacing. While you’re at it, swap out your wiper blades.
Bonus Step: Always Prepare for the Unexpected
As careful as you are as you winterize your car, there is one more matter to tend to — your emergency kit. That kit should be stocked with jumper cables, duct tape, a flashlight, reflective triangles, a tire gauge, gloves, rags and tire sealant. Include a thick blanket, a snow shovel and kitty litter for traction.
Employ this simple checklist and you’ll be ready for almost anything the wintry streets and highways can throw your way.
Check out all the heating & cooling parts
Photo courtesty of Wikimedia Commons
Matt Keegan has maintained his love for cars ever since his father taught him kicking tires can be one way to uncover a problem with a vehicle’s suspension system. He since moved on to learn a few things about coefficient of drag, G-forces, toe-heel shifting, and how to work the crazy infotainment system in some random weekly driver. Matt is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association and is a contributor to various print and online media sources.