6 Tips to Get Your Vehicle Ready for Winter
January 17, 2016
Written By Adam Buckallew
Extreme cold, snow, sleet and freezing rain present a number of challenges to drivers and their vehicles. That is why it is important to take the time to prep your car or truck for winter weather. We asked the experts at Big O Tires and Jiffy Lube for their advice on winterizing vehicles. They recommend following these guidelines to ensure your vehicle can handle the rigors of winter.
1. Keep Windshields Clear
Few things are as nerve-wracking as trying to drive with a windshield covered in ice, road grime and dirt. Installing a fresh pair of wiper blades can help keep your field of view clear. The blades should glide smoothly across the windshield without leaving streaks or blind spots.
Windshield washer fluid is crucial for maintaining a clear field of vision. Inspect the wiper fluid reservoir and add more if it is low. A harsh winter storm is the worst possible time to run out of wiper fluid.
2. Check Tire Pressure and Tread
Cold weather can do a number on tire pressure, so keep a gauge handy for frequent checks. Your vehicle’s tire pressure information usually can be found on a sticker in the doorjamb or in the owner’s manual.
Underinflated or worn tires can be dangerous on slick, icy roads. Driving on tires with low air pressure creates extra heat where the rubber meets the road, degrading the tire structure, wearing out the tread and reducing traction. Make sure your tires are properly inflated and have adequate tread depth to provide excellent traction.
Keeping tires properly inflated can also save you money. Correctly inflated tires can improve fuel economy by about three cents per gallon of gasoline.
3. Take Care of the Battery
A weak battery is unreliable and may take longer to start on frigid winter mornings. Have your vehicle’s battery tested at the beginning of the season to make sure it has enough cranking power to withstand the cold. A battery that is plenty strong at 60° F can have 35 percent less power at 32° F and 60 percent less at 0° F. While you are checking the battery’s strength, make sure the cables and terminals are corrosion-free.
4. Consider a Lighter Grade of Oil
The oil in your engine changes depending on how hot or cold the engine is running. Because the outside temperatures will influence the internal temperature of your engine, you need to make sure you are using the proper oil for the conditions. Check your vehicle manufacturer’s motor oil recommendations and take heed of any variations advised for cold weather conditions.
Cold temperatures make motor oil thicker. Switching to a lighter, less viscous oil for winter driving can help reduce unwanted friction in the engine. If you run a 10W-30 in the summer, for example, you may think about moving to a 5W-30 at your next oil change. Be sure to check the fuel, air and transmission filters at the same time.
5. Fill Up Frequently
Keep your gas tank at least half full. Water vapor can condense on the inner walls of an empty fuel tank overnight in cold weather and drip into the gas. Your fuel system can deal with a little water, but a lot mixed in a little gas can make the vehicle run rough, or not at all if the water freezes in the fuel lines. So consider the half-full mark “empty” in winter to avoid this. The extra gas also adds weight over the nearest axle (usually the rear), which can be an aid to winter traction.
6. Pack a Winter Emergency Kit
A well-stocked emergency kit is essential in winter. Make sure it contains a flashlight, extra batteries, water, flares, blankets, a shovel, a snowbrush and an ice scraper. Kitty litter or sand are also handy for sprinkling under tires to get better traction when starting from an ice patch or in the snow.