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Cold weather means more than pulling the jackets and sweaters out of storage. Preparing your car for winter weather will help keep you and your family safe on the icy roads and prevent costly repairs later on in the season. While the weather is still mild in early December, take the time to make sure your car is ready for the icy months ahead by checking off all our car winterization tips.
Older cars may require a more comprehensive winterization plan but most cars from the last 20 years or so just need a few steps to ensure that they will be in tip-top shape no matter the weather.
Inspect your tires
Dependent on where you live, now is the time to mount snow tires to your vehicle. If the weather is typically more on the mild side, all weather tires may be effective all year long. Regardless of the type of tires you have installed, regular inspections are important for proper safety.
Tire Inspection Tips
- Check the tread:
Use a penny to monitor depth of the tread. Insert the penny into the tread with Lincoln facing you. If you can see all of Lincoln’s head, the tread is less than 2/32 inch and it is time to replace your tires.
- Check the pressure:
The proper amount of air for your tires will vary based on the type of car you drive. This information is typically posted inside the door edge, glove box, or fuel door. Ensure your tires are inflated properly using a tire pressure meter to confirm that the manufacturers recommendations are met. Cool temperatures will cause pressure to decrease and may result in your tire pressure light turning on. Proper inflation allows your tires to have better contact on the road, creating traction during winter road conditions.
- Check for irregularities:
Look closely at your tires for bulges, gouges, or nails. If you see any of these, it may be time to visit the tire store for a full inspection.
Typically fluids are topped off during oil changes, but it is a good idea to check the levels before the weather changes. The basic fluids in every vehicle are oil, coolant, and washer fluid. You can typically see where the fluids should be filled to on each area.
If your oil or washer fluid is low, simply confirm the proper type and refill it appropriately. Coolant is a very important fluid during the winter months and must be mixed correctly to prevent your radiator from freezing solid. Consult your owner’s manual to confirm what the proper mixture is should you need to refill it.
Install Winter Wipers
When the roads are full of snow and salt, visibility can become limited very quickly. Wiper blades are only intended to last for one year. If yours look worn or frayed, it is definitely time to replace them. For areas where the weather is particularly harsh, you may want to buy blades that are specifically intended for winter weather.
Check Your Battery
Cold weather reduces battery capacity. Confirm that your battery cables have no cracks or breaks and that the terminals are snuggly attached. If you are concerned about the age of your battery, visit a local parts store to request a battery load test to ensure that your battery is in good shape for the winter months.
On average, car batteries last between two to five years. Check the manufacturer date and if you are worried that your battery is nearing the end of its lifespan, pack a set of jumper cables in your trunk.
Prepare yourself for winter roads
While your car may be in good shape, you might not be ready to drive on the roads during rough weather. It’s ok to decide that the roads are too bad to be out and about!
Before heading out for the day, confirm that you have a high quality brush and scraper in the car. Fully cleaning off your car before starting on the road will make sure that there is no chance of limited visibility later.
Allow ample time to get to where you are going regardless of the poor conditions by leaving early and driving slowly. Allow more distance for stopping and create a buffer of space in-between you and the car in front of you.