Now that the temperatures have begun to drop, it won’t be long before we see the white stuff falling from the sky — not to mention piling up on the roads, where it can make your daily commute something of a challenge. Before you get caught out in the cold, take the time to ensure that your car is winter-ready. We’ve got the 411 on essential steps to take, so grab a nice hot cup of coffee or tea and read on!
Gather Up Emergency Essentials
Quick — what’s in your trunk? If you’re like most people, there’s probably a tire jack, an ice scraper, and maybe a bag of clothes that you’ve been meaning to take to Goodwill. Well, get those donations dropped off, because you’re going to need the room for some winter traveling essentials.
What exactly are those essentials? Some ideas include:
- A first-aid kit
- A car tool kit
- A flashlight
- Road flares
- A radio
- A portable car battery charger
- A power bank to charge your phone
- Nonperishable snacks, like nuts, granola bars, beef jerky, etc.
- Bottled water
- Wet wipes, tissues, and a roll of paper towels
- Duct tape
- A warm blanket or two
- A change of clothes, or an extra hoodie or sweater
- Kitty litter or sand, for traction
Some people go so far as to keep a disposable cell phone that’s fully charged in their emergency essentials kit, so they can make 911 calls anywhere, any time.
Check Your Fluids
Now is a great time to check the fluids your car needs to perform reliably in the winter, and change them out or top them off as needed. Switch to lower-viscosity motor oil, as well as windshield wiper fluid that is designed for winter use and therefore won’t freeze on your windshield.
If it’s been a while since you changed your wiper blades, take care of that, too. It’s no fun to find out, mid-blizzard, that your blades are no longer working as well as they could be.
It’s also important to check the coolant and antifreeze fluids.
How Are the Tires?
Should you swap out your tires for winter tires? That depends on the climate where you live and your driving habits, but in general, experts recommend that if you live in an area of the country that gets cold in the winter, you should get winter tires. Note that this term is not interchangeable with “snow tires” — winter tires are designed to provide great traction and steering power even when there’s no snow or ice on the roadway.
You can probably get away with all-season tires if you don’t drive very much in the winter or if you live where the winters are fairly mild. If you do decide to make the investment in winter tires, replace all four of them. Having winter tires on just the back or just the front wheels can make your car more difficult to steer and more prone to skidding or sliding out of control.
While you’re at it, check the tires’ pressure — and keep an eye on it all winter long.
Cold temperatures can cause tires to lose pressure, and underinflated tires are dangerous to drive on. The Los Angeles car accident lawyers at the Barnes Firm say that a surprisingly high number of accidents occur due to poorly maintained tires. It’s such an easy fix, it’s a no-brainer.
Tune It Up
Car experts recommend getting a tune-up about once every 30,000 miles. If your car is approaching that milestone, go ahead and get your car into the shop so that the mechanic can give it a once-over.
Ask the mechanic to check all the belts and hoses, the ignition, the brakes, the wiring, the spark plugs, and the battery.
Lastly, you’ll want to turn on the heater in your car to double-check that it’s working. Taking care of that now can eliminate hassle — and freezing toes — down the line. The same goes for your defroster. Run these checks before taking the car in, so that the mechanic can make any necessary repairs.