How to Properly Maintain Your Car During the Harsh Winter Months

Written by a Guest Blogger

Winter means a more difficult driving situation for you and your vehicle – the colder temperatures, lower visibility, and more slippery surfaces of the winter months bring with them more opportunities for accidents and problems than the summer or spring months. With a bit of planning ahead and preparation, you can be ready for almost anything the winter months will throw at you!

Snow Tires and Your Vehicle

One of the best points to start your winter preparations is with putting a set of snow tires on your vehicle. All-weather/all-season tires are fine alternatives though they’re more generic in nature than snow tires, but if your tires are neither specifically for snow or for year-round driving, now’s the time to look into replacements for the winter months.

Snow tires (designated with a snowflake on the mountain symbol) are specially designed to grip the road differently and make up for the unusual driving conditions of snow and ice; they’re invaluable for helping maintain your peace of mind during the winter months. Since your tires and your vehicle’s grip on the road are some of the main areas where winter driving becomes more difficult than driving during other months, snow tires are an excellent way to start your preparations.

Check Your Tires

Got those snow tires on your vehicle? Good – now check them! A couple times a week and before any major trip, head out to your car with a tire gauge, unscrew the cap from your tire, and make sure the tires have enough pressure in them. Refer to your tire placard, usually located in the driver’s door jamb, for the correct tire pressure.

Maintain Your Battery

The harsh cold puts your vehicle’s battery through all sorts of trials, and it’s important to stay one step ahead of the weather’s effects on your battery. Bring your car by a local automotive parts store during the coldest parts of winter for a cheap (and sometimes free) battery check – it’s a simple procedure for the shop to check how your battery’s health is doing. If your battery cannot take a sufficient load during the test (often called a “load test”) replace it as soon as you can to avoid the dreaded dead battery. Scheduling visits to the shop on your own time as a preventative measure is a much better alternative to being forced to jump your car and stop by a shop to replace a dead battery.

Wash Your Car

Road salts and harsh conditions mean damage to your car’s body, and that means rust, drastically decreasing the value and appearance of your car. Wash your vehicle about once every two weeks or once a week if you live in an area with heavily salted roads – you’ll keep your car’s body in much better condition this way, helping keep your investment intact and your car looking as good as possible.

Prep Your Winter Kit

No matter how many precautions you take, you may one day find yourself stuck in your vehicle waiting for help during the winter; it’s in this time that you’ll be glad you put together a winter kit for your car! Here’s a quick checklist of items to include.

  • Space blanket
  • Whistle
  • Spotlight / flashing light
  • Standalone jumpstart kit (there are even some that can plug directly into your cigarette lighter and jump your car without even popping open the hood)
  • Nonperishable food

Finish out your kit with a few more items relevant to your area, such as phone numbers of police stations and towing services nearby, and plastic bags for gathering snow to melt into water. Take some time and pack a small backpack with these items – being as ready as you can for a worst-case scenario like this keeps you much safer should you get stuck during winter driving.

Plan Ahead

You don’t need to fear the winter months if you work on planning ahead and maintaining your vehicle – proper planning and maintenance can’t avoid every disaster, but it can certainly help you be better prepared for emergencies and avoid some of the most common winter driving issues, such as slippery roads and dead batteries. Whether it’s angling up the windshield wipers to keep them from freezing to the windshield or performing your weekly tire check, take a little time and plan ahead during the winter months. Also, consider scheduling an inspection with a local auto body shop like Cascade Collision Repair of Utah to further make sure your vehicle is safe and properly maintained during the winter. You’ll be glad you did so!

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Auto Upkeep 4th Edition

Michael Gray

Mike has roots in the automotive service industry. He began diagnosing and fixing cars at a young age in his family’s service station. He has worked in automotive parts supply stores, towing companies, and service facilities. After graduating from St. Cloud State University (MN) with a Bachelor’s degree, he implemented and taught a basic car care program at the high school level. During work on his Master’s degree at Illinois State University (IL), he was a curriculum specialist on a National Science Foundation project where he co-authored ten integrated mathematics, science, and technology books designed for team teaching. Mike has also supervised teachers in Career and Technology Education as a school system administrator.

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