Question: I keep seeing commercials about winterizing my car. I know this is not a warm sunny climate, but I already keep up with regular maintenance. Do I have to really do anything different for winter? What does “winterize” really mean?
Answer: Hard winter conditions can take a toll on our cars, so you do need to take some precautionary steps to ensure a safe and reliable drive this winter. Even if you’re on schedule with regular auto repair and maintenance, winter brings its own special issues. Why not take the time while the weather is still pleasant to make sure you are ready when the really cold stuff hits? Here are the winter basics from Auto Lab:
We expect our cars to start each and every time we turn the key in the ignition. Colder temperatures can reduce battery power by up to 50 percent. If being stranded with a dead battery in frigid weather is not on your winter to-do list, have it checked. Average battery life is 3 to 5 years, so testing your battery and checking the posts and connections for corrosion makes good driving sense.
Tires and Tire Pressure
How much tread is left on your tires? If your tires don’t have enough tread to grip the road you will lose traction. Add in slippery leaves or snow and loss of traction control reduces safety even further. Replace all tires with less than 3/32 inches of tread. In very snowy climates like we see here in the Libertyville area, you might want to consider a set of snow tires to combat tough winter driving conditions. If you have a European vehicle, you should give serious consideration to a set of snow tires. (We’ll do a blog post on that soon.) And remember, when you need tire service, Auto Lab is your go-to tire center!
If your tires do have plenty of tread on them, make sure you’re keeping the tires inflated to the proper PSI. In colder weather, the air pressure in your tires can drop significantly. Proper tire inflation not only maximizes gas mileage, traction and tire tread life, it also helps minimize damage from nasty winter potholes.
Windshield Wipers and Wiper Fluid
Is there anything more annoying than a streaky windshield right in your line of sight? Yes, there is—not having any windshield wiper fluid when that salty film residue obstructs your vision completely! Replacing wiper blades ensures a clean sweep of the windshield for rainy and snowy conditions. Topping up with fluid specially formulated for cold weather protects against freezing and helps maintain clear visibility.
Belts, Hoses and Fluids
Now is the prime time to ensure your radiator, water pump and engine cooling system are properly protected for winter. This means checking the coolant to ensure it’s clean (not thick or sludgy brown) and that is has the proper mixture of antifreeze and water. If it doesn’t, you may find your engine temperature rising or your heating system…well, not heating. The cooling system helps cool the engine and disperses that heat into the passenger cabin to keep you nice and toasty.
You should also ask your Auto Lab technician to check your transmission, brake and power steering fluids as well. Check belts and hoses for wear and replace if necessary.
Prepare for the unexpected
Sometimes despite proper precautions, the unexpected occurs. Have the following items stocked in your car just in case. Prolonged exposure in severe weather is dangerous.
- Cell phone with car charger
- First-aid kit
- Nonperishable snacks and drinking water
- Snow and ice scraper
- Jumper cables
- Hats and gloves
- Sand, salt or cat litter for traction
Shorter days and crisper nights mean winter is just around the corner. Schedule an appointment today or call us to prepare your car for winter. Our ASE-Certified Technicians will keep you moving all winter long!