With the winter season upon us, it is important to ensure that both you and your vehicle are road-ready and prepared for winter weather. The first signs of car trouble often arrive with the first signs of winter. Sluggish performance, rough idling, and difficult starts are all potential warnings of problems that could get worse as the temperature drops.
Here are some key tips to make sure your vehicle doesn’t leave you stranded in the dead of winter:
Check your vehicle’s fluid levels. Maintaining a 50/50 mix of antifreeze will prevent your engine coolant from freezing as temperatures drop. Be sure your engine oil is ready for the season — when having the oil changed, remember that severe cold weather can require a switch to a different oil viscosity for better lubrication at lower temperatures. And don’t forget to check that your power steering, transmission and brake fluids are properly filled.
Test electrical system.Lighting on long, dark nights, combined with cold starts and heater operation, increase electrical demand. While most modern batteries are sealed and cannot be filled, a charge test will ensure enough cranking power to start your engine as temperatures fall. Also check starter, alternator and drive belts to ensure your electrical system is up to the task.
Examine braking system.Check hydraulic brake fluid to make sure it is clean and change it more than two years or 50,000 miles old. Ensure system components and the parking brake operate freely and safely.
Ensure all lights are working.Winter driving also comes with shorter daylight hours — and a greater likelihood of at least some portion of your commute being driven in the dark — so it is important to check all vehicle lighting. Check not only your headlights, but your taillights, instrument lights, back up lights, turn signals, parking lights and brake lights. These lights are important not only because they help you to see, but also serve as a way to help you communicate clearly with other motorists.
Keep an emergency kit.Motorists need to have supplies if they get stranded. Be sure to have a working flashlight, ice scraper, water, candy bar, kitty litter, shovel, blanket, fully charged cell phone, etc.
Replace worn tires.Make sure tires are inflated, according to your owner’s manual, and have sufficient tread. Take a penny, insert it into the tire tread, and if you can see the top of Lincoln’s head, consider a new set of tires.
Install new windshield wipers.Don’t use your wipers to clear your windshield of frost – use a plastic ice scraper or your vehicle’s defrost button. Replace brittle or torn wipers.