Winterizing Your Car

Prepare for those cold winter-time driving trips by getting your car ready with a few simple checks and tasks to enhance safety.

Fall is that time of the year when we need to prepare for the winter months ahead. You should never put this off too long, because not only could your vehicle end up broken down on an isolated road, there might not be a phone to call for help and you could get frostbite. Preparing your car for frosty cold temperatures is the smart thing to do.

Start with the tires. If you can, you might want to get snow tires for a couple of reasons. They are designed to help you get better traction especially on ice. All-weather tires can help you save wear and tear or even damage to your regular tires. If you don't have snow tires, you better make sure that you have good tread or you will be all over the road when it is slippery, and you may not be able to brake suddenly if someone skids toward you.

Another preparatory thing you can do is put two to four bags of heavy sand in the trunk of your car, placing them over your wheels. These will provide traction and help to secure the vehicle on slippery or muddy roads.



Next, check the wiper blades. You can buy windshield wiper blades made just for the winter, which will protect against sluggish or torn wipers that can streak rather than clear the windshield. Make sure your windshield washer fluid is filled at all times.

Don't forget to check your radiator coolant to make sure that you have enough antifreeze. If your antifreeze is two years old or more, you need to have the radiator flushed and new antifreeze added. Make sure you change your air filter and oil filter, along with the oil, as prescribed by the manufacturer. Your car will run more efficiently if you keep it well maintained, especially in extreme weather. You should make sure that you check your power steering fluid and brake fluid at the master cylinder. The reason you check all the fluids and filters is you don't want to be trying to figure out what is wrong with your car when it is snowing or so cold you have to wear gloves.

Get your battery ready for the winter, too. Pull the caps off the top of your battery and make sure the fluid is filled to the top. You can use a flat tip screwdriver to pry them up while the car is not running. Then clean the battery posts and the battery cables, which go on them. You can use a battery cleaner, a file, a wire brush or sandpaper. It is a good idea to have a set of booster cables in your trunk, in case you leave your lights on, or in case a friend or family member needs a jumpstart. Auto parts stores sell cans of gas that protect your fuel line from freezing in the winter; just add it to your tank before you fill up, and the cost is only a couple of dollars. Tire pressure should be checked at least monthly, because in the winter you can lose up to ten pounds of air pressure per month.

Essential tools like a jack, screwdriver, flashlight, and an emergency or distress signal should be kept in the trunk, along with a blanket and drinking water, in case you get stranded. When these tasks have been addressed, you can drive away feeling secure, knowing that you've taken sensible precautions to keep your vehicle running smoothly and safely when Jack Frost comes to town.

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