Get Your Car Prepared for Winter

There’s nothing worse than being stranded…except being stranded in bad winter weather. Colder months are tougher on cars, and a little preventative care now will go a long way to keeping your car running smoothly in the face of snow, sleet, rain, and freezing temperatures. We know, it can be tempting to skip a service if your car is running okay, after all, if it isn’t squeaking at you, there’s no problem, right? Wrong. Neglecting to give your car a pre-winter checkup is penny-wise and pound-foolish. It may seem like you’re saving precious time and money, but in the long run, you’re doing neither. The good news is that getting your car winter-ready doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg.

Sarah on “Prepare Your Car for an Emergency”

“It’s very inexpensive to get your car prepared for an emergency, because most of the items you already have. But the security of knowing you’ll have what you need if you’re ever in a pickle is priceless. Start with the basics, every car should have a blanket, a flashlight, an ice scraper, an extra pair of gloves, extra water and a granola bar or two, jumper cables, a first aid kit and a collision kit. It is also a good idea to have flares and a bag of salt or kitty litter in case you need to pour some under your tires to get extra traction on snowy roads. Take two minutes today or this weekend to double check you have at least the items on this list.”

Alicia on “Have a Plan if You Get Stranded”

“If you do find yourself in a worst case scenario situation (and hopefully you’ll avoid that by getting your car prepared), you will need to know what to do if you are stranded. Unless you know where you are and/or exactly how far away help is, you are better off staying put and lighting two flares and putting them at either end of your car so that others can see that you are stranded. Get under your blanket and put on your gloves to stay warm. If you have enough gas, run the engine and the heater for about 10 minutes every hour until help arrives. Leave at least one window open a little bit so that snow and ice don’t seal the car shut.”

Here are three other things you should do to get your car ready for the winter months ahead:

1. Get Your Tires Ready

Snowy, sleety roads are hard enough to drive on when you have perfect tires. If you have under-inflated tires, your ability to handle and brake will be compromised to an even greater (and scarier) degree. Under-inflated tires also wear out faster and reduce fuel economy. Plus they run much hotter, which can lead to tire failure. Check tires with a tire gauge and inflate if they are low. Make an appointment with a tire retailer, like Mavis or Costco, to have your alignment checked. While you’re there, you may also want to consider getting some snow tires put on for the winter.

2. Swap Out Tired Swishers

If you currently have to squint through the smeared water left on your windshield by old, tired wipers, it’s time to get some new blades. They only cost about $15-$20, but can literally save your life by increasing your visibility in rainy, sleety and snowy conditions. In addition, be sure to top up on wiper fluid. You’ll need plenty of that to be able to see when driving in the snow.

3. Get the ‘Big 3’ Ready for Winter (Oil, Battery, Antifreeze)

While you are getting the rest of your car in order, you should also make sure to check three other critical things. First, take a look at your battery’s posts to make sure they are free and clear of any corrosion and that it has all the water it needs. If it’s old, take it to a nearby service station to test its ability to hold a charge. Second, check the oil. It tends to thicken as it gets colder, and if it’s too thick it won’t do the best job of keeping your engine lubricated. Finally, make sure your radiator has enough antifreeze; experts recommend having a 50-50 mix of antifreeze and water inside your radiator. You can check the mixture yourself with an inexpensive antifreeze tester, which you can pick up at any auto parts store. If the mixture is off, your cooling system should be drained and refilled or flushed. Be sure you’re equipped to dispose of your old antifreeze properly if you do this job yourself. It can’t just be poured down the drain.