Categories: Useful Automotive Information
How to Keep Your Vehicle Safe and Running During Cold Weather
While you must take care of your car all year round, winter brings its own set of challenges. Cold temperatures, snow, and ice can take a toll on your vehicle.
While you must take care of your car all year round, winter brings its own set of challenges. Cold temperatures, snow, and ice can take a toll on your vehicle. For this reason, it's essential to implement a comprehensive winter car care routine to ensure the car stays safe and in top-notch condition throughout the winter months.
Proper winter car care can increase the lifespan of your vehicle and lower the cost of maintenance and repairs. Here are tips to help you keep your car in optimal condition during the cold weather.
If you thought your car battery dying was bad enough, imagine when it leaves you stranded in the cold. Car battery failure is more common in winter months. Winter weather can reduce the battery's capacity by 30% to 60%.
Additionally, the battery will work harder as it needs more energy to pump the engine oil and other components that usually slow down during winter. Check your battery charge level and terminals to ensure they're in good condition. If the battery is over three years old, you might need to replace it.
Check your tires for adequate tread depth. Worn-out tires are dangerous, particularly in winter weather, because they have low traction. Even the traction of new all-weather tires can lessen when the temperatures get close to or below freezing. You can switch to winter tires for improved traction on snow and ice.
Moreover, colder weather reduces tire pressure by 1 pound per square inch for every 10°F degrees in air temperature. Therefore, it's essential to check the tire pressure before driving and inflate as required. Driving with low tire pressure lowers fuel efficiency, causes the tires to wear more quickly, and compromises your safety and that of other road users.
As winter days get shorter, you will need your lights more than you do during other months. Even though driving with headlights is not a requirement in your area, you should do so for safety reasons. Using headlights during the day can significantly increase the visibility of your vehicle to other drivers, as winter weather often brings reduced visibility due to snow, fog, or overcast skies.
Fortunately, most modern vehicles have Daytime Running Lights (DRLs), which are automatically activated when the engine runs. However, be sure to confirm whether your car has these lights. Verify all lights on your vehicle are working well, including headlights, tail lights, turn indicators, and reverse headlights. Replace any burnt-out bulbs to enhance visibility. Moreover, carry a microfibre cloth to wipe the ice or dirt that falls on the lights.
Check the coolant
Coolant is a mixture of water and antifreeze. The antifreeze prevents the coolant in the engine's cooling system from freezing in cold temperatures. Water alone would freeze at a relatively high temperature. This can significantly damage the engine, radiator, or other components. The mixture of water and antifreeze lowers the freezing point and raises the boiling point.
Confirm that the coolant is in good condition before embarking on your trip. Use a torch to check the liquid inside the coolant reservoir. You'll need to replace it if it has floating particles or has changed color to brown.
Maintain a 50/50 to 70/30 mix of antifreeze and water in your coolant system to prevent freezing and protect the engine from corrosion. Ask your technician the correct ratio if you are not sure.
Replace worn-out wiper blades and top up washer fluid
Your safety and that of other road users is guaranteed by how well you can see. A simple obstruction could result in a serious road accident. For this reason, ensure your windshield and all windows and mirrors are always clean.
For the windshield, wiper blades and washer fluids are super important. You don't want to be on the road only to realize you can't see well because your wiper blades are worn out and cannot do their job or you don't have washer fluid to clean the windshield.
Before you start your journey, check if your wiper blades have any signs of wear and replace them if necessary. Wiper blades have a very short life span, and you may have to replace them after every winter. If your area experiences a harsh winter, consider buying new wipers specifically designed for winter, even if your blades are functioning well.
Similarly, have sufficient windshield washer fluid to clean salt and sand that fall on the windshield. Ensure it is topped with a winter-grade solution that won't freeze in low temperatures. Finally, ensure the defroster and climate control work well to keep the windshield and windows from getting icy or foggy.
Protect the exterior
Salt and other de-icing chemicals used on roads during winter can corrode your vehicle's exterior. Regularly wash your car to remove these corrosive substances. Moreover, apply a protective wax coating to help shield your vehicle's paint from the harsh winter elements.
Keep the fuel tank full
Keep your fuel tank at least half full and, if possible, full. This helps prevent condensation in the fuel lines, reducing the risk of fuel line freezing. When the fuel line freezes, starting the car will be nearly impossible. Moreover, it also ensures you have enough fuel in case of unexpected delays or detours due to winter weather conditions.
Use the right engine oil
Engine oil usually thickens in cold weather, making it harder for the engine to turn over. Using the right oil will ensure proper lubrication, even in freezing temperatures. Check your vehicle's owner's manual for the recommended winter-grade oil viscosity.
Check the brakes
While brakes are not affected by winter weather, you need to get them checked to ensure your safety and that of other road users. Roads can get slippery, and good brakes can help you avoid mishaps. Moreover, driving on snowy roads can take 10 times longer to stop completely. This means you are likely to hit objects if you brake when too close. Get your brakes checked, including the brake pads, rotors, and brake fluid, and replace them if needed.
Renew your insurance
Each year, about 1300 people die, and another 116,800 are injured when driving on icy and snowy roads. New drivers are more likely to get into accidents, but even pro drivers are not immune. If you get into an accident and don't have the right auto insurance, medical bills and car repair costs can get high. You will have to dip into your emergency fund to cover these costs. To avoid this, ensure you pay your insurance on time, and you can get uninsured/underinsured insurance just in case an uninsured or underinsured driver hits you.
Park your car in a garage
It's good to park your car in a garage throughout the winter in order to protect it from harsh elements such as wind, snow and ice. Parking your car in a garage also helps keep fluids, like the motor oil, at the right temperatures, making it easier to start your vehicle and keep all the mechanical parts lubricated. If you don't have a garage, consider renting one or using a carport.
Pack a winter survival kit
Winter weather can be unpredictable. Even after prepping your car, there is still a chance you'll get stuck on the road. You should never leave your house without a winter survival kit just in case you're stranded. The kit should contain a blanket, flashlight, extra warm clothing, non-perishable snacks, lighter, sleeping bag, ice scraper, brush, cell phone charger, medications, and a first aid kit. These supplies can be invaluable if you find yourself stranded in cold weather.
A good car owner cares for their vehicle all year round. However, you must pay special attention during winter to avoid being stranded in the cold. In addition to the above points, always check the weather forecast regularly and adjust your schedule. Remember, winter weather can be unpredictable, so prepare your car.