- Ensure your tires have proper tread.
Your tires can be your best friend or your worst enemy when winter weather hits the roads. Tires with proper tread will keep you rolling true in slippery conditions, but tires with uneven or excessive wear pose a serious sliding/slipping risk.
An easy way to check this at home is to use the time-honored “penny test.” Simply take a penny, turn it upside down and facing you, and insert it into one of the treads of the tires. If you can see all of Honest Abe’s head, it’s time to replace.
2. Change your oil.
Your motor oil expands and “loosens up” in warm weather and contracts and becomes a little more solid in winter. This can be exaggerated when that motor oil is dirty. The result is oil that won’t do its job the way it’s supposed to, taking longer and more energy to work its way through the components of your engine. This could lead to some very expensive and frustrating problems down the line.
Change your oil early on in winter, especially if you’re getting close to your manufacturer’s recommended interval.
Install winter wiper blades.
Your wipers do the important job of keeping your visibility as high as possible during inclement weather. “Year-round” blades aren’t well-equipped to handle extreme temperatures or the increased weight of snow and ice. Winter weather blades are stronger and more flexible. They also usually have a special coating that helps them perform better in snow and ice.
Winter weather wiper blades are built to be there when you need them the most. They can usually be found for less than $10 at your local auto parts store and are a breeze to install yourself.
- Keep your gas tank at least half full at all times.
Did you know that condensation can often form inside your gas tank and fuel lines? In warmer weather that isn’t much of a problem. But in winter, that condensation can freeze and create blockages, making it difficult for your car to start or worse.
The easiest way to avoid this is to keep your gas tank at least half full at all times during the winter. Gasoline will not ever freeze, so keeping your car’s fuel system filled up is an easy and effective solution to this winter problem.
5. Check your tires often to ensure proper inflation.
Treads are only half the battle when it comes to tires. While modern tires hold their air pressure under normal conditions, cold air molecules contract and become more dense, which can dramatically lower your tire pressure. Low tire pressure makes it more difficult for your car to maintain traction. In winter weather conditions that can spell disaster.
Make sure to check your tire pressure every couple hundred miles in the winter, and be sure to pay attention to any tire pressure warnings your car might be sending. Another solution is to have your tires filled with nitrogen, which doesn’t fluctuate under changing temperatures. It also has shown to stay inflated properly for longer. While this used to be prohibitively expensive, many tire service companies offer this service now for less than $100.
6. Add antifreeze (especially in older cars).
It says it right there in the name. Antifreeze is an additive that you mix in with your engine’s cooling system to lower its freezing point. As we mentioned before, water does some nasty things to car components, especially when it freezes.
But there’s more. In addition to preventing freezing, antifreeze also raises the boiling point of your engine’s coolant to keep it from overheating. It also functions as a descaler, keeping hardened “junk” from building up inside the engine and other components.
*Important note: Cars that were made after 1998 require silicate-free, organic acid antifreeze. Anything made before 1998 needs to use the traditional antifreeze which doesn’t contain silicate. Please, please heed this warning before putting the wrong antifreeze in your car.
- Pack an emergency kit.
No matter how prepared your car is to handle winter weather, sometimes circumstances are just out of your control. Even the most competent vehicles can slide off the road during inclement weather, and depending on where you are it may be an extended period of time before help can arrive.
At the very least, make sure your winter emergency kit includes the following, all of which should cost you less than about $125 in total:
- Road flares
- Tire repair kit
- Battery-powered phone charger and cable
- Jumper cables
- Emergency blanket
- First aid kit
- Tire traction mats/Kitty litter