Your garden is not the only thing that will need a bit of care for the upcoming winter months. Your car will also need to have a once over done on it. While you should keep your car in good working order year round and keep a get home back in it, as the weather turns colder there are a few places that you will need to pay special attention to. I’ve put together a list of 11 things to check before it gets too cold.
1) Check your car’s battery – Cold weather is hard on any batteries, especially the one in your car that might end up sitting out in the cold all night. It is hit with a two front attack. On the one side the cold slows down the chemical reactions that the battery uses to provide power. On the other in colder conditions your car requires more juice to get started. As that nip in the air picks up take your battery to get tested. If it is several years old you should consider replacing it before it gives up somewhere less than convenient.
2) Check the engine oil – Since you have the hood up to take a look at the battery go ahead and take a few moments to consider your oil. Yes, keeping it full is an all year job. But as you move into colder weather you should look at the type of oil that you are adding. The colder it gets the thicker your oil will get. Thick oil will have a harder time moving through your car’s engine and that can cause trouble. If you live in an area that spends a good chunk of time below freezing you’ll want to consider swapping to a thinner oil. For example if you normally run a 10W-30 perhaps in the winter you would want to run a 5W-30. But be sure to double check with your car’s manual, it might have some good info for your particular machine.
3) How’s the coolant? – Still under the hood, but it might be easy to forget. Coolant sounds like more of a summer problem at first. Coolant does double duty and is also known as anti-freeze. Some places I’ve seen say swap from a 50/50 summer mix to straight coolant/anti-freeze, others say that 50/50 is a good winter mix and another source has put a good winter mix at 60/40 coolant to water. This is another one to check your owner’s manual for to determine the best solution for your car.
4) Check the belts and hoses – While still under the hood give everything a once over. A good number of those pieces are plastic or rubber and cold weather can do a number to them. If you have any that look like that have seen some wear and tear go ahead and replace them no rather than waiting for them to fail and strand you on the side of the road.
5) Refill your windshield fluid – One last thing to do while the hood is up, top off your windshield fluid. While the blue stuff will help keep the windshield clean you might want to look around at the store. There are options now that will help to melt off snow and ice on a cold morning. Sometimes you can find a washer fluid that is good at melting ice and cleaning bugs off the windshield and that you could leave in all year long.
6) Inspect your wiper blades – They move all that rain, snow, sleet and hail off your windshield, so you want them in top working order before the storms arrive. Look them over, are they ripping or look dry rotted? Time to swap them out. If they are in good condition you could leave them on, or if you are in an area that gets a fair amount of snow you may want to swap them out for wipers made for snow and slush more than just rain, if that is the case save your other blades until spring.
7) How are your tires doing? – Take a penny out to your tire and check the tread level. If your treads are good your tires should be alright. At least for normal driving conditions. The next step is to consider what kind of weather you have and what kind of tires are on your car. If you live in an area with a fair amount of snow you may consider all weather tires if they aren’t already on your car. If winters are tough where you live you might just need to go for winter tires.
8) Check your tire pressure – Regardless of the types of tires you have chosen to carry you through the winter be sure to check the tire pressure. An improperly inflated tire will not only waste gas but will also not give you the optimum amount of traction. You don’t want to find that out on an icy road. Cold evening can cause the air in your tire to contract and some might find small leaks since there is less air pressure holding the tire in place. While many cars have pressure monitors that cause a dash light to come on, you may want to double check the old fashion way now and again.
9) Stock your car – While it is important to have a get home bag that stays in your car all year long, during winter you need to add a few more items. You will want to have supplies to last a few hours (if not a day or two) in your car. You’ll have to be the final one to decide what to have in there, but some water and food, blankets, change of clothing, dry socks, small shovel, backpacking stove, hand warmers, hat and gloves and a flashlight would all be good choices. Don’t forget that if you have other that are normally in the car with you you’ll want supplies for them as well. Lastly don’t forget that it might not be you who needs to use some of these items.
10) Get some de-icer – If your lock freezes forcing your key can snap the key off, then you’ll have a bigger problem. Many locations now sell a product like this. Even though most cars have remote unlocking fobs it is still a good idea to have some with you. After all, what happens when you find your front door frozen? (I can tell you from experience breaking off a key in the front door and having to sit in the snow is not a lot of fun)
11) Check your 4 wheel drive – Does your car have four wheel drive? Do you know how to engage it? Some cars you can simply push a button or move a lever from inside the car. Some you need to be stopped when you activate it others you don’t. A few vehicles need you to hop out and engage it at each wheel. Other cars have all time all-wheel drive. It is a lot better to double check that you know how to use the feature and you have made sure it is working well on a nice sunny day then after you are stuck in a snow drift.