Winter weather can make the roads treacherous to travel. With the slush, snow, and ice covering the streets, it’s essential to maintain your car throughout the winter.
If you are like me, you may not know much about maintaining your car. I grew up in a family of mechanics and still can’t tell you much about the pieces and parts of an automobile. Any time I hear a rattle or a whine, I go to my Dad to ask questions. And like most people, I don’t have money to dedicate to keep my car running in tip-top shape. Often, simple maintenance is overlooked.
So, I’ve consulted with my mechanics to bring you this list of simple winter maintenance. There is no need for the grease monkeys or gear heads; this is an easy do-it-yourself checklist.
Check Your Tires
- Tire Pressure – As the temperature goes down, so does the pressure in your tires. Maintaining your tire pressure is essential to get optimum gas mileage and prevent excess tire wear. Every type of tire has a different desired pressure or PSI; you can find the correct PSI in your car’s owner’s manual.
- Tire Tread – It’s essential to check the tread depth of your tires to prevent excess wear. You are using a penny, which used to be the standard way to test the tread. Nowadays, it is recommended that you utilize a quarter for the test. When you place the quarter in the tire’s tread, tire, you should NOT be able to see the top of Washington’s head. The higher the track on the tire, the better traction you will get when driving through the snow and ice. Consider purchasing snow tires depending on where you live and how much snow and ice your area may get.
Check Your Car Fluids
- Antifreeze – Antifreeze or Engine Coolant is essential to maintaining a healthy year-round engine. It prevents the engine from freezing in the winter and overheating in the summer. To check the levels, most cars have a white plastic container you can see through and lines to tell you how high it should be. It is also essential to maintain a 50/50 mixture of Antifreeze and water. If you are unsure if the mixture is accurate, you can check it at most auto repair shops or even purchase your tester. You can find a tester at stores like Advanced Auto Parts, Sears, or AutoZone.
- Windshield Wiper Fluid – When the roads are covered in slush and muck, your windshield is often covered, too. It’s essential to maintain good visibility while driving. By keeping your windshield wiper fluid full, you can wipe away all the winter grime and see clearly through your windshield. To check the wiper fluid, there is a plastic container similar to the Antifreeze container. Be careful when checking, and be sure not to mix the two. Windshield wiper fluid is blue, while Antifreeze is green or pink. You may also want to consider new wipers for better performance. It is recommended to change your windshield wipers once a year.
- Oil – Checking your car’s oil is crucial to maintaining a healthy engine. The oil helps the engine run smoothly and efficiently. To check your oil, you find your car’s dipstick; you pull it out and wipe it off with a paper towel or rag. Once the dipstick is clean, you replace it by making sure that it is in all the way, and you remove it for the second time to look at the end. Most dipsticks only have two lines, one labeled “full” and one labeled “add.” You will want to add as much as necessary if your level is below full. It is also essential to have a routine oil change, recommended every 3,000 miles or every three months.
- Gasoline – With gas prices increasing, most people don’t often keep a full gas tank. However, keeping your tank as complete as possible is crucial in the colder weather. With an emptier tank, condensation can lead to water that could freeze and cause severe damage. Also, in the chance of being stranded or sliding off the road, a full gas tank will help keep your car warm while waiting for use.
Check Your Lights and Power
- Lights – Have you ever seen those cars with a headlight out or gotten angry with vehicles with no brake lights? To ensure your safety as well as the safety of everyone else, it is vital to check to ensure that all your lights are working routinely. It is a quick and easy test but may require two people. You can check your headlights by simply turning them on. To check your brake lights, ask a friend to watch the lights as you step on the brake. And don’t forget to check your turn signals.
- Battery – The winter weather is harsh on your battery and could prevent your car from starting. You’ll want to check the battery clamps for corrosion and make sure the clamps are tight. If a white powdery substance is around the clamps, you will like to clean them with baking soda and water. If your battery is older, you may want to consider buying a new one; it is recommended to replace your battery every 3 to 5 years. Most places will offer discounts on new batteries if you bring in your old one for an exchange.
Keep it Clean
- Car Washes – With all the salt and slush on the roads, your vehicle is in danger of rusting. To prevent corrosion and rust, routinely wash your car. This will help keep your vehicle looking squeaky, clean, and tip-top.
Have a Survival Kit
- Windshield Scraper and Brush – When your car is covered in snow and ice, you must have a scrapper to clean the windows for visibility.
- Booster Cables – Should your car fail to start, booster cables can jump-start the battery with the help of another vehicle.
- Flashlight & Extra Batteries – If you get stuck at night, you’ll want to be able to see. A flashlight will allow you to check underneath the car for quick repairs or flag down someone who can help you.
- Blankets & Extra Clothes – It’s always good to have extra blankets, coats, gloves, hats, and scarves in the car. You never know how long it will take for help to arrive in case of an emergency.
- Flares & Distress Signals – If you are stranded on a remote country road, flares can send a powerful signal to someone that you are in distress.
- First Aid Kit & Pocket Knife – If any injuries are sustained, a first aid kit can help alleviate any wounds or symptoms. Most of them carry the essentials like band-aids or pain relievers.
- Salt – If your car gets stuck in the snow, having a bag of salt will help to melt the snow. You can also carry sand or kitty litter to help with traction.
- Food & Water – Depending on how remote the area that you are traveling in is, you may want to bring along some extra food and water. Having an extra bottle of water or some crackers in the car is always crucial.
- Candles & Lighter – Candles will help with light warmth and are a way to melt snow for water. Some people also pack a metal can to melt the snow.