Get Ready for Winter

Winter is here, for the most part. Even if you live in Arizona or Florida, there are a few things you should think about regarding getting your car ready for winter. From changing wiper blades to changing tires, here are a few things everyone should know about getting a car ready for the changing season.

What everyone should be doing

Washer Fluid. First things first—as winter rolls around, no matter what the local temps are, check your washer fluid. Keep a jug in the garage and maybe one in the car, too. If you don’t have space, pour some into a resealable, chemical safe bottle and keep it on hand for an emergency. Check the temperature rating on your washer fluid when you buy it. The stuff that is made for cold weather works in the summer but not vice versa.

Wiper Blades. It’s not just use that ages your wipers. Baking in the sun can also degrade the rubber and cause them to be less efficient. So, if you live in the southwest, there’s a good chance that your wipers aren’t up to par heading into winter. If you’re in a snowy area, you know how vital good wipers can be to getting home in a harsh winter storm. Be ready, be safe.

Tire Pressure/Treadwear. Your tires and wheels aren’t airtight. Temperature changes, road conditions, how often you drive, and sitting around can impact the air pressure in your tires. Tire pressure can affect both fuel efficiency and handling. If your vehicle doesn’t have a tire monitor built-in, they’re only a few bucks pretty much anywhere.

Treadwear is the same. A variety of conditions can cause tread to wear down, again affecting performance and safety. Your tires probably have small bars deep in the tread—those are wear indicators; if the tread is even with them, buy new tires. Another trick is to take a penny and put Lincoln’s head against the tire. If the tread is covering the top of his head or more, you’re okay.

Jumper Cables. You should keep a set on hand all the time. Sitting outside waiting for help in the summer is a lot different than waiting with a dead car in the middle of winter. The change in temps can affect battery performance, so it’s something to keep an eye on.

Signaling Devices. Road flares, safety triangles, or strobes can all help you get attention if you break down. Getting the attention of other drivers can help in any situation and in all weather.

What to do in cold climates

Winter Tires. Most cars come with all weather-tires. However, some don’t, and if you drive a vehicle that has seasonal tires, now is the time to swap them out. If you have the tools in your garage, it takes less than an hour. If not, most shops will swap them for cheap or free if you bought the tires there.

Anti-Freeze. Almost no one is using straight water to cool their vehicles anymore, but if for some reason you are, change it out. The cold temps will freeze your engine and crack the block. That means you need a new motor, which is going to be the same as buying a new vehicle in the end.

Practice. If you’re nervous about driving in winter after a few months off, get in some practice. Wait for the first snow, then go to an industrial park at night and drive around; get used to starting and stopping. Use some of those giant empty parking lots to purposefully lose control and recover. The point is to get an overall sense of how your car will handle in the snow.

Pack a Bag. Even if you aren’t planning any long trips, a bag with some survival gear could really help during the winter. A space blanket fits almost anywhere. A small candle can provide enough heat to keep you from freezing. Some salt or kitty litter can give you enough traction to get out of a tough spot. A tarp can make changing a flat tire easier by giving you a dry surface to work from. Rubber over boots can keep your feet dry if you need to trudge through snow or slush.

In the end

Think about what you need to buy or change for your car and do it before the weather changes. Or before you travel someplace with snow. After your home, your vehicle is probably your most valuable asset. But you are priceless. Take care of your assets to protect yourself.

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