Photo: Jevanto Productions (Shutterstock)
Winter is right around the corner, and while you may be stocking up on snow suits for the kids and taking steps to rid your house of drafts, you also need to do a few things to get your vehicle ready for the season. Cars need a little extra attention in the winter—and they deserve it, too, since they keep you toasty while bringing you to and from your destinations, no matter how much you wish you could just stay inside. Here’s what to think about now so your car is ready to go when the cold weather hits.
Start with your tires
According to Performance Plus Tires, there are three things you should do to make sure your tires are ready for the snowy, icy season:Make sure they’re properly inflated because traction is vital for getting you through the snow.Keep chains in your car in case of sudden blizzards.Get your wheels aligned to maintain control and handling in icy conditions.
You may also just want to consider whether it’s time for a new set of tires altogether—pick up a tire tread depth gauge to determine if your wear exceeds 4/32th inches, which can decrease stability.
Create an emergency kit
Even if you live in an urban area and don’t foresee ever getting stuck somewhere snowy with no way out, you should be prepared for the worst. Put emergency supplies in your trunk now so you always have them. Per Almanac, the kit should include:Extra blankets, mittens, socks, and hatsAn ice scraper and snow brushA flashlight (with extra batteries)Jumper cablesA first-aid kitBottled waterA multitoolRoad flares and reflective warning trianglesWindshield cleanerA bag of sand (for traction)A collapsible shovelHand warmers
Check and clean your battery
One way to avoid getting stuck and needing that kit is to make sure your battery is functioning well. Family Handyman recommends testing the battery with a computerized battery tester (or bringing the car in for a professional evaluation) and replacing it if necessary—before it gets cold out. Clean your battery terminals by disconnecting negative cables, then the positive cables, using a battery cleaning tool or wire brush to clean the terminal posts, then clean off grease and acid before reinstalling the positive cables, then the negative ones again. (You can also ask a mechanic to do this.)
Prepare your windows, latches and hinges
In the winter, freezing water can get into the window tracks, which can then damage your window regulator cables. Lubricate your window tracks with spray silicone or dry teflon spray by lowering the window and shooting right into the front and back window tracks. Open and close the window a bunch of times to spread the lube around. To be safe, do this with your locks, too, even if you usually use remote controls to access your vehicle.
Finally, lube all your latches and hinges. If your car won’t start when it’s cold out, you don’t want to discover at that moment that you’re having a hard time opening the hood. Your local auto shop will have all the right lubes for these various parts.
Check your coolant
Coolant is what protects your engine from freezing and cracking. It’s vital in the wintertime, so make sure you have enough. Coolant test strips are pretty inexpensive and easy to use: They will show you if your coolant is still good for freeze protection. If it’s not, get new coolant right away.