Typically, we know it's cold when our vehicles start slow in the morning. Colder weather will come and it's time to get our vehicles winterized if you haven't done that already. This warm weather has lulled us into postponing winter plans since it was so warm, but winter will come.
Getting your vehicle winterized could save you some repair bills. It's better to do it now before it gets much colder because once it freezes, it may be too late.
The car's dependability also is part of driving safety. If the car stalls or breaks down, it could be hazardous to the driver and passengers on wintry roads.
To help get cars ready for winter, here are some tips:
— Schedule your appointment early to have your car tuned. Mechanics also will check spark plugs, water pump, belts, hoses, distributor and other electrical parts.
— Check the battery. Any large shift in temperatures (including winter and summer) drains battery power. Car batteries generally list their expected life (for example, 60 months) on the cover. As a general rule, batteries over four years old are more susceptible to cold temperatures. Check also to make sure oxidation has not built up on the battery connections.
— Check the mileagedate since your last oil change. Oil changes usually are recommended every 3,000 to 5,000 miles or every three months.
— Check other fluids, including windshield wiper fluid and antifreeze. Some automakers recommend flushing the radiator and replacing the fluid every two or three years. This information/recommendation will be in the owner's manual. Keeping a spare bottle of wiper fluid in the trunk is a good idea during winter months. Go for quality fluid. Some of the cheap blue discount fluids will freeze around zero degrees.
— Put an extra key in your pocket or on the vehicle so you do not get locked out during a winter emergency.
— Check wiper blades. Windshield wipers are designed to remove moisture. Using wipers to remove ice or other debris can damage wiper blades and reduce their effectiveness. Replacing wiper blades periodically (once a year, for example) is easy and relatively inexpensive. Also, keep a snow brush, ice scraper and commercial deicer in the car.
— Check tires. In cold weather, the air pressure in tires can decrease by as much as 6-8 pounds. The decrease in pressure affects the ride, but it also affects safety. Car owners should check tire pressure regularly during winter months; some service stations provide this courtesy service.
Also, tires with more tread provide more road-gripping power. All-weather tires in good condition can usually provide dependable service during winter months. People who must travel frequently during the winter may, however, want to invest in snow tires. If you must travel out of state, consider chains.
— Check belts and hoses. Replace worn, cracked, or frayed belts before they break and or cause a breakdown. Hoses should be checked to see if there are cracks, soft spots or leaks. Some car manufacturers recommend new hoses every 3-4 years.
— Check the alternator, starter, brakes, heater, defroster and exhaust system. While all should be in good working order, the exhaust can be particularly problematic during winter months. A damaged system may allow harmful exhaust fumes to seep into passenger areas. The most important check-up is on the battery, charging system and starting system.
— Keep the gas tank full to reduce the amount of moisture that can build up and potentially stall the vehicle.
— Allow time to scrape front, back and side windows. Limited visibility increases risks.
Another good idea is to stock a car safety kit, including a flashlight with fresh batteries; stocking cap; gloves; socks; shoes; small shovel; and skid-resistant mat.