Is Your Vehicle Winter Ready?
It’s that time of the year again! The air is brisk, temperatures are dropping, and leaves are falling! As the holidays are upon us, life is getting pretty hectic, but you might be forgetting one thing… your car! As cold temperatures begin to amplify, roads begin to get slick, and the possibility of snowfall increases, it becomes extremely important that your vehicle is prepared to fare the winter so you don’t get stuck out in the cold! Cold weather alone can change how your vehicle performs, and once snow arrives, other factors begin to take affect. Here are five ways you can start preparing your vehicle to be winter ready!
1. Improve your Visibility
The importance of good driving visibility cannot be understated, as “80% of driving decisions are made based on visibility,” says Lauren Fix, the car coach. In order to maximize your visibility during the winter, make sure your wiper blades are in good condition. If they aren’t, simply replace them. You should also be sure that your headlights both operate and are clean. On older vehicles, headlights tend to become “fogged” over, so cleaning them with one of a variety of aftermarket products could greatly improve visibility when it gets dark out. Having well functioning headlights are also important so you are more visible to other drivers on the road.
2. Check your Tires
Tires are a crucial part of being ready for the winter, as these are the only parts on your vehicle in direct contact with the road. Having maximum grip will be helpful in any condition, so be sure your tires are inflated to the proper air pressure. Your vehicle’s recommended tire pressure is located on a sticker inside the driver door pillar when you open the door. Pressure should be monitored, if possible, and checked at least once a month to ensure it isn’t running too low. In the cold, air pressure tends to drop quicker, so it is important to remain aware and check often if possible.
Now is also the time to check your tire tread! If you insert a penny into the tread with Lincoln’s head facing down into the tire and you can see his hair/ the top of his head, its time for new tires! Here in New Jersey, most vehicles fair well with all season tires, although considering winter tires is never a bad idea. Experts suggest that if outside temperatures remain below 40 degrees on a regular basis and you are driving in more than light snow conditions, then it is probably a good idea to have snow tires on your vehicle. The tread on snow tires resemble the tread on a pair of boots you may wear, providing improved grip to the road in slippery conditions. It can help in braking and steering maneuvers in comparison to a typical tire in slippery conditions, but that does not mean your vehicle won’t slide.
3. Check your Battery
Cold Temperatures can greatly affect how a vehicle operates mechanically, and one part that takes a great deal of this stress is your battery. In temperatures below 32 degrees, battery power decreases by 35%, and at 0 degrees, power decreases by up to 60%! Most batteries last 3-5 years in a vehicle, but the more ultimate factor is how much voltage your battery has. You can have the voltage checked at an ASE certified mechanic or your local dealer, and they will instruct you if it is time to replace the battery. Dead car batteries are one of the most common issues during the winter, so coming prepared now could save you from a headache on a cold winter’s morning.
4. General Vehicle Maintenance
Now is also the time to be sure all your general vehicle maintenance is up to date, as the cold weather puts stress on other areas of your vehicle apart from just the battery. Make sure you are up to date on your oil changes, your brake pads have decent life left in them, and that all your vehicle’s fluids have been checked. Most vehicles have 7-9 different types of fluids in them, all of which ensure safe operation of your vehicle. The levels of each fluid should be checked, and filled to the proper levels prior to the winter.
If there are any warning lights on, such as the “check engine” light, be sure that this is attended to, as it can be any early sign that something on your vehicle needs maintenance in order to continue safe, efficient operation.
For all these procedures, follow the schedule outlined in your owner’s manual to be sure you are maintaining your vehicle to manufacturer recommendations. As with batteries, use an ASE certified mechanic or your local dealer for maintenance. All these fixes may seem minor now, but it may prove to have been worth it once the weather gets rough.
5. Be Prepared In Case you Get Stuck
Of course, nobody ever plans on getting stuck in their vehicle, but it happens. In the winter, if you do get stuck, its best to come prepared! Here are some recommended items that Lauren Fix, the car coach, recommends you have in your car in the case of a winter emergency.
· Granola Bars/non-perishable snack
· Blankets (multiple)
· A Phone Charger
· Ice scraper
· Hand warmers
· Jumper Cables