In many parts of the country, driving in the winter is much more challenging than in the other three seasons.
Even in areas that don’t normally get snow and severe cold, winter can rear its ugly head. I don’t have to tell you folks in the South about that following last February’s winter storms and deep freeze.
If you can hunker down during a winter storm – or even when it’s cold and snow is gently falling – you’re better off.
But as we all know, that is not always an option. Inclement weather including freezing rain and high winds can strike at any time. When it does, being out on the road can be a scary proposition.
There’s still time to prepare
My goal today is to provide you with suggestions on winterizing your vehicles. You already know it’s important, but reminders don’t hurt.
If you have a properly maintained automobile, your odds of getting stranded somewhere outside your home will be reduced.
It’s all about keeping you and your family safe when you have to travel in the winter. Something as simple as a worn-down wiper blade or a broken rear defroster can spell disaster on the road.
I hope you’ll take these recommendations seriously. And if we act soon, we’ll be prepared for when the weather gets nasty.
A dozen tips to keep you safe
Here are my tips for making sure your vehicles are as prepared as possible for winter.
- Have your battery checked by a trained mechanic. Make sure it’s in top condition to handle winter. Engines need more current from the battery in cold temperatures.
- Make sure your tires have enough tread to handle slippery roads. Nearly bald tires may get your vehicle from here to there in dry conditions. But they’re a death trap on snow-covered roads.
- Check your tires’ air pressure. Cold weather can cause air pressure to drop. For safe traction, you want properly inflated tires.
- Ensure that your anti-freeze mixture is about 50 percent anti-freeze and 50 percent water, or 60/40 in colder climates. That way, the radiator coolant won’t freeze.
- Cold weather reduces your oil’s effectiveness, so make sure you’re current on oil changes. A properly lubricated engine will run best. Use a thinner oil in winter. While you’re at it, check all other fluid levels.
- Change your wiper blades and fill your wiper fluid compartment. Being able to clear rain and snow off your windshield is crucial. Salt on the road gives you better traction by melting ice, but it can smear a windshield.
- Make sure your defrosters in front and back are working properly. When a windshield fogs up, driving becomes dangerous. Check the car’s heater while you’re at it.
- Lubricate window tracks. Freezing rain can seep into window tracks and negatively affect window regulator cables. Use spray silicone or dry Teflon spray lubricant in those tracks. Do the same with door locks.
- Get a tune-up before December. A mechanic can check your belts and hoses, ignition, brakes, wiring, spark plugs, and your fuel and emission filters.
- Keep your gas tank as full as possible throughout winter. You never know when you might be stuck on a road for several hours and you’ll want to keep the heat running. In addition, cold weather can cause condensation to form in a nearly empty gas tank. That water can travel into fuel lines and freeze.
- Build an emergency car kit. It should include extra hats, coats, gloves and blankets. As well as a shovel, windshield scraper and brush, battery-powered radio, flashlight with extra batteries, and flares. Plus nonperishable food, water, first-aid kit, jumper cables, tool kit, and cellphone charger. And salt to melt ice and cat litter for traction. Not to mention canned compressed air with sealant for emergency tire repair. And a power bank.
- Finally, create a communication plan for your household. What does that have to do with cars? Well, every family member needs to know exactly what to do if their vehicle breaks down. Especially in the winter.
I hope some of these recommendations were good reminders. Staying safe while driving in the winter should be a high priority.