Get Your Car Ready For Winter

By Andy Cook

With winter almost upon us, we think about bringing out the heavy blankets, changing over to our warmer clothes, and prepping our snow blowers and finding those shovels we put away last year. However, many of us get so caught up with our busy lives that we don’t take the time to get our cars ready for the wintertime. There are many things you can do today which will have you prepared for driving in these colder months.

As you read over this list, make a mental note of the things you need to do to ensure that your car or SUV is ready to safely transport you and your family. If you’ve already done some of these things, then commend yourself for being a good planner and maybe pass along this info to some friends.

•Check your tire pressure and tread. Traction is essential, even more so when there’s snow and ice on the ground. Also, check to be sure your tires are properly inflated to the correct pressure, as under-inflated tires can make for dangerous situations. As a reminder, the air pressure in your tires will decrease 1-2 psi for every 10 degree drop in outside temperature, so tires that were fine in the fall may need to be rechecked now. Bill Stoeckel, general manager of Daniels BMW/Mini of Allentown stresses the importance of getting your car checked before winter.  He suggests winter-specific tires for his customers, or all-season tires if your car normally has performance tires, to ensure good traction.

•Change your oil and filter. See if your manufacturer recommends specific oil for colder months (check your owner’s manual). Also, keep your gas tank at least half-full to reduce any chance of condensation (water) that could potentially lead to your gas line freezing. Most gasolines have an additive for this, although there are after-market additives you can put in your tank yourself.

•Check all your lights. You need to be seen, especially in low light conditions. Make sure your headlights, tail lights, brake lights, turn signals, center brake light, and daytime running lights (if equipped) are all in good working order. Be sure they are clean, too, especially with all the spray from driving on wintry roads. When you stop to fill your gas tank, be sure to clean your windows and headlights with the squeegee and window cleaner at the filling station. Be alert during this time of year, as lighting conditions are not as good as during other times of year. As the days get shorter, we drive more in the dark, or in diminished light situations. As the sun travels through a lower trajectory in the sky, we spend more time driving into and out of shadows. Both conditions require extra care.

•Check your wiper blades and washer fluid. Clete Landis, owner of Star Buick/GMC, notes, “You need to be able to see others, and visibility is critical.” Replace your wiper blades with blades designed for snow and ice. He also suggests you “fill your washer fluid tank with de-icer solution – not straight water – so the fluid won’t freeze in the colder temps and possibly break the washer fluid tank.” Don’t forget about your rear window wiper/washer if your car is equipped with one. Make sure the inside of your windshield and rear window are free of haze and dirt, too.

•Have your antifreeze checked. This affects your engine’s ability to warm up, provide heat, and work properly. Check your manual to find out what ratio (antifreeze to water) is recommended and make sure it protects you down to the lowest temperature you’re likely to come across. Also, have your hoses checked for cracking. Better to deal with this now, than be stranded on the side of the road.

•Have your battery/charging system checked. Your battery is rated based on “cold cranking amps” and if it’s 15 degrees outside, then that battery will really have to work hard to get your engine running. This also means getting your belts checked, because frayed old belts won’t do well in winter. Rick Duld, service manager at Bennett Infiniti recommends having your battery tested. “We have battery testing equipment that can print out a report which tells us if your battery is still good.  Just because your car starts doesn’t necessarily mean it has sufficient cold cranking amps for the wintertime,” he adds.

•Wax your car. A good coat of quality car wax can help protect your vehicle from grime, road salt and dirt, none of which are good for a car’s finish. Also, don’t let road salt stay on your finish for weeks at a time. Run your car through an exterior car wash periodically to get the road salt off your car. Be sure to rinse the wheel wells and undercarriage, too, to prevent early rust from occurring.

•Be prepared with an emergency kit. Make sure you have a flashlight with fresh batteries,  bottled water, blankets, your cell phone’s charger, jumper cables, flares, and some snacks on hand should something happen that results in your being in caught unexpectedly in a winter storm.  Also, be sure your cell phone has all the emergency numbers already programmed into it ahead of time.

•If your plans include travel out of town, plan ahead with your GPS or maps. Determine your route in advance, and when possible, stay on main roads. When the weather’s bad, main roads will be treated and cleared before secondary ones.

•Finally, drive with caution, for your safety as well as those of your passengers and fellow motorists. Remove snow from your entire car, and allow extra space between you and the cars around you. Don’t rely completely on all-wheel drive (if your car has it) as while you may get going quicker, it won’t necessarily help you stop faster.

Stay safe!

Rick Duld, Service Manager – Bennett Infiniti
Bill Stoeckel, General Manager – Daniels BMW/Mini of Allentown
Clete Landis, owner – Star Buick/GMC

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