Winter is upon us! Snow days are a blast, but they are the enemy of your automobile. While there isn’t much you can do to prevent the rusting and chipped paint that come as the result of driving on salted, icy, snowy roads, there are several things that you can do to prepare your vehicle for the upcoming winter. Following these few simple preventative suggestions can save you thousands in breakdowns and other costly repairs!
1. Tire Pressure Check
First and foremost, you will want to locate and refer to your owner’s manual and its instructions for winterization. It will likely instruct you to inflate your tires a few psi (3-5) above the recommended psi during the winter months. The cold weather will naturally cause your tires to deflate a little bit, so regular tire pressure checks are a must.
2. Snow Tires or Chains
Whether or not it would be a worthwhile investment to purchase snow tires and/or chains really depends on the climate of where you live. Here in Richmond, VA, snow tires aren’t very popular and I’ve never seen anyone using tire chains. Both provide additional traction and increase safety in winter weather. Snow tires feature softer tread composition and a more aggressive tread design which help you to gain traction and remain flexible in freezing temperatures. Snow chains are specially designed chains which fit around your tire and help you gain better traction in the ice or snow, especially in mountainous terrain. No matter how moderate the winters are where you live, snow tires are a good idea. In Richmond and places with warmer winters, we get ice more than we get snow… which is more dangerous than snow itself! An ideal situation for snow tires. Snow chains, on the other hand, require the road you are travelling upon to be covered in snow and ice (otherwise, it will be a very bumpy ride!). To be extra safe, it wouldn’t be a horrible idea to invest in snow chains just in case.
3. Engine Oil Check
Again, you will want to refer to your owner’s manual for this one. Many vehicles like thinner oil in the winter, but only if it is recommended in the manual. Engine oil helps to regulate the temperature of the engine. Since the outside temperature will affect the internal temperature of your vehicle, winter oil doesn’t have to be as thick.
4. Other Parts Check
There are several parts of your vehicle that could be affected by the cold. It’s a good idea to check these parts monthly for any signs of wear.
- Drive Belt/Hose. Check for signs of deterioration.
- Windshield Wipers and Fluid. Check that wipers are in great working condition. Fill your wiper fluid reservoir up with fluid solution that includes an antifreeze for clearing of frozen grime, ice, and snow.
- Antifreeze/Coolant. In the winter, your coolant:water ratio should be 60:40.
- Battery Check. Very cold temperatures can reduce your battery’s effectiveness by up to 50%!
5. Emergency Preparedness. Being prepared for an emergency is a good idea for any season, but running into an emergency in freezing temperatures can be life threatening! Grab the following items and store them in the trunk (door handles freeze easily):
- First aid kit
- Jumper cables
- Ice scraper with brush
- Gloves, socks, boots
- Emergency blanket
- Cell phone battery
- Extra engine oil and coolant
- Glycerine (a liquid that will defrost door handles stuck together with ice)