This week, the “polar vortex” is expected to hit most of the U.S. hard, which means now is the time to make sure your car is fully serviced before winter truly arrives. Driving in the winter can be dangerous, as roads are slippery and the weather can turn on a dime. Make sure you are fully prepared for the winter ahead before it hits by servicing your vehicle and continuing routine maintenance checks throughout the winter months.
Summer is the most popular season for driving, which means you may have racked up a lot of miles on your car without servicing it. Before the ice and snow arrive, take your car in for a regular maintenance check. It is important to make sure you have had a recent oil change, a change of coolant fluid, as well as a thorough check of your brake and transmission fluid. Fluids are key to keeping your car running during the winter months as they help to protect the essential parts of your engine and keep them from overheating. Your car’s systems have to work very hard and in sync to keep you going in the winter. It is critical to make sure everything is properly filled and updated before you encounter a problem midway through January and its freezing cold.
The Coolant System
Even though it may seem counter-intuitive to have your coolant system checked when we’re headed into the coldest months of the year, it actually may be the most important thing you do this fall. Winter weather can cause serious damage to your car’s cooling system. When taking your vehicle in for a routine maintenance check, ask your trusted mechanic to service all parts of the coolant system and replace the current coolant fluid before your car is given the OK to leave the shop. There are different ratios of coolant that should be used during the winter dependent on the make and model of your car. Make sure this is addressed with your mechanic to ensure a healthy coolant system this winter. Coolant not only protects you car from overheating but also battles corrosion, which is why it is very important to regularly service the system.
Your brakes are extremely important to you and your car during the winter months. Giving yourself an ample amount of time to stop and taking into account the slippery roads resulting from ice, snow and freezing rain is always a key when driving safely in the winter. Make sure that you are confident in your brakes by checking them regularly for wear and tear before you hit the road on any wintery day. A few key signs that your brakes may need replacing are if your rotors are cracked or worn, they have deep grooves, or if the pads between them are looking thin.
Your tires provide the grip for your car on slick roads. They should have ample tread left on them before you take on the icy roads of winter. If you live in a region where large amounts of snow and inclement weather are expected, it may be smart to look in to “winter” tires. These tires are larger and have a much deeper tread than a regular tire. These enlarged treads provide more grip for your car when on the road.
In the winter, dry rot is a common problem for tires, potentially leading to blowouts and flat tires. While dry rot is an easy problem to recognize, it is too commonly ignored, which can lead to big problems down the road. You do not want to be on the side of a road with a flat tire during freezing cold temperatures, so be sure to check your spare tire now, before the weather gets too intense. Make sure you have refilled your spare with air and have checked it for dry rot, leaks, or holes to make sure it is ready for use in case of an emergency.
Lights and Wipers
Headlight use is at an all time high during the winter months, as it get darker earlier and nasty weather can prevent good visibility. Check your headlights, brake lights, and all other lights on your vehicle to ensure that you are visible to others on the road and that you can see clearly. New light bulbs are fairly inexpensive and are worth the quick fix.
Another relatively simple item to update is your windshield wipers. Creating good visibility is key when it is raining, snowing, or sleeting. A good rule of thumb is if your wipers are more than 6 months old, it is probably an appropriate time to look into replacing them.
Be Prepared For the Worst
Make sure before you hit the roads this winter, you have all of the necessary items readily available in your vehicle. It is always smart to keep a few of these items in an easily accessible location.
- Bag of sand/kitty litter for traction
- Jumper Cables
- First-Aid Kit
Driving on the road during the winter, in any condition, is a dangerous task and to be confident that your vehicle is up for the job, you must make regular maintenance checks a priority. Staying consistent with your car’s care is an easy way to increase its longevity this winter. It’s hard to believe, but it’s already the second week of November, and the temperatures are starting to drop. Take your car into the shop for a routine check before you are distracted by the upcoming holiday season. If you are diligent about the care of your car during the months prior to winter, you will be ready to take on the upcoming weather and temperatures ahead!