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20 Winter Care Care Tips

I know what you are thinking…Winter?  Summer just ended, what happened to fall?  If you live in a climate that gets all 4 seasons, then you know how quickly the weather can change.  One day it’s 75 and sunny, the next day you turn on the news only to hear that dreaded 4-letter word in the forecast – snow.  You’ve been driving around carefree all summer long with the windows down and the radio blasting away.  You never really worried about getting stuck anywhere, after all, if you did break down you could just call for help or walk to the nearest service station.  Winter driving is an entirely different beast and like all beasts, it’s best to be know how to tame it without getting hurt. While you can never be assured of warding off all calamities, following these simple steps will put you in the best possible position to make it though the winter safely.  Before you know it, summer will be here again and you can lower the top and take to the open road!  So here we go…

1.  Check Your Battery – Most auto parts stores will do this check for free. It’s simple, fast, and will give you an indication if you can make it through the winter without a dead battery.

2.  New Wiper Blades – While you are at the auto store having your battery checked, there are a couple of things you can pick up to make your life easier. Make sure that your wiper blades are new and will keep your windshield clean all winter.  Salt and dirt from the roads kick up all winter long and you’ll want to keep your line of vision clear.  Winter blades may provide a bit of extra protection as well.  And don’t forget your rear wipers too!

3.  Change Washer Fluid – This is an absolute must in the winter. Windshields are constantly getting salty and dirty and if you are anything like me, the wipers (see #2) are always being used.  Make sure that you get washer fluid that has a little extra anti-freeze so that you aren’t just spraying your windows with water that will quickly freeze.

4.  Check Your Anti-Freeze – While we’re on the subject, make sure that you have the right ratio of anti-freeze to water. Generally, a 50/50 mix will work well and in the winter you might want to consider going up to 60/40 for some added protection in those especially cold climates.

5.  Change Your Oil – I know, you get regular oil changes and this isn’t really an issue right? Or is it?  Make sure that you are keeping on top of the oil changes as needed and that the oil you are using in the winter is designed for the best protection in cold weather.  A bit higher viscosity, and possibly synthetic oil, might be called for based on your vehicle’s needs.  Don’t forget to check your car’s owner manual for even more details.

6.  Tires! – Most people think that winter tires are just for snow.  While they certainly help when the white stuff is on the ground, winter tires are also much more reliable in colder temperatures.  Once the mercury dips below 45 degrees, a winter tire will be much safer by providing better grip on the road.  Also be sure to check the pressure.  If your car is equipped with a TPMS gauge, you might get tired of seeing the light come on all the time – especially after the car has been sitting for a while and the tires have gotten cold.  Driving heats up the tires and this heat increases the tire pressure.  Keep an eye on your tires to make sure that they are always properly inflated and the tread life is providing you with a safe ride.

7.  Belts & Hoses – Just like tires, the rubber that goes into the belts and hoses reacts differently to the cold temperatures. Have them checked out to make sure they are in good condition to make it through the deep freeze.

8.  Exhaust System – You’re much more likely to keep your car sealed up as tight as possible during the cold weather and any problem with the exhaust system is bound to rear its ugly head during the winter. This could be very dangerous and needs to be addressed.

9.  Replace Dirty Filters – While you should be replacing these on a regular basis, you’ll want to make sure they are up to par in the winter. Keeping these clean can provide the added benefit of improving fuel efficiency and keeping the engine from overworking itself.

10.  Don’t Run on Empty! – So you’ve always heard that you shouldn’t let your gas tank get too empty during the winter and you never knew why, well here’s why. When your tank gets close to empty, condensation can build up around the tank walls – this water can then make it’s way into the fuel lines.  Water + Winter = Frozen Fuel Lines.  This is bad.  Make sure you keep your tank at least ¼ full to avoid this nasty situation.

11.  Defroster & Heater – You’ve most likely not had to use either of these in months. Things are about to change.  Give them a quick spin and make sure that they are working properly.  Check for any leaks around the doors and windows to assure proper functioning of these important systems.

12.  De-Icer – It would be a shame to have your car running properly and not be able to get into it because the locks are frozen. Keep a bit of de-icer handy should the situation arise so that you can unlock your doors!

13.  Basic Tune-Up – You are seeing lots of stuff on this list and thinking it’s all just a bit too complicated. A basic tune-up should check for all of these things listed and just might provide you the added piece of mind you are looking for heading into the dead of winter.

14.  Check All Your Lights – both inside and out. Make sure that your lights are working properly and that the headlights are aligned in the right direction.  Minor adjustments of the headlights could make a major difference in how well you can see and be seen.  Don’t forget your brake lights, fog lights, and turn signals too.  Other divers need to know what you are doing at all times.

15.  4-Wheel Drive – So you got the added feature of 4-wheel drive on your vehicle and you have no idea how to use it. Make sure that you understand the system and how to switch between 2 and 4-wheel drive when the roads get especially messy.  Since you paid for it, you might as well get the benefit of the extra traction.

16.  Check Brakes – You’ll be using these a lot more during the winter and you need to make certain that they will be there when you need them. Take your time when on the road, maintain a safe distance (stopping takes longer on cold, snowy roads) and understand that even the best brakes won’t stop your car from sliding on ice!

17.  Protect The Paint – Consider getting your car detailed, or at least putting on an extra coat of wax yourself. The winter elements can be especially harsh on your car’s paint. Salt and snow continue to build up all winter long and a little extra protection now will go a long way come summer cruising time.

18.  Cell Phone – Don’t forget, this is often times your best safety device. Make sure it’s with you and charged. Consider an external battery pack in case you get stranded and be sure not to waste precious battery life playing games. And by all means DON’T TEXT AND DRIVE! Driving during the winter takes all your concentration and focus. Whatever it is, it can wait!

19.  Emergency Car Kit – It’s always a good idea to have this kit with you whether it’s the middle of summer or the dead of winter. A good winter emergency kit will have: snow brush, ice scraper, kitty litter or salt, small shovel, flashlight (don’t forget extra batteries), flares, boots, coat, hat, gloves, blankets. Things that are good to have in your kit all year are jumper cables and bottled water.

20.  Know What to Do – Perhaps the most important thing to do when preparing to get your car ready for driving in the winter is reviewing and knowing what to do should you get stuck. Here are a few pointers…Don’t leave your vehicle. Call for help and let them know where you are. It’s much safer for help to find you than for you to wander off looking for help. Light a couple flares and place them in front of and behind your car. Depending on how much gas you have left you can run the engine for 10 minutes per hour to get some extra heat going. Bundle up – hats and gloves too. Leave the window open a small crack so that it doesn’t freeze shut.  Stay calm and take the time to catch up on your daydreaming!

So there you have it, the official unofficial list of the top 20 things you need to do to keep your car running and you safe through the winter months.  When all else fails you could always pretend you are a bird and fly south for the winter.  Of course, if you live in Florida you probably don’t need to worry about the snow so much.  Come to think of it, why are you reading this anyway?!

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