Getting your vehicle in shape for winter driving is not as extensive-or expensive-as you might think. Below are a number of tips to help get your car ready for those chilly months. Many of these preparations can be done yourself.
- Battery. Have your vehicle's battery inspected by a technician using professional equipment to ensure it has sufficient power.
- Tires. In areas where snow and ice are facts of winter, install snow tires.
- Windshield Wipers. Replace old, worn blades, and if your climate is harsh, snow (rubber-clad) blades can be an effective alternative.
- Engine. Get drivability problems such as harsh idling and stalling repaired. Replace old air and fuel filters as well as a faulty positive crankcase ventilation (PCV) valve.
- Anti-Freeze/Coolant. Make sure the condition, level and concentration (usually a 50/50 mix of anti-freeze and water) of your vehicle's anti-freeze is appropriate.
- Fuel. Maintain a gas level of at least half-full. A full gas tank helps keep moisture from forming and also adds a beneficial weight increase.
- Oil. Change your car's oil according to the manufacturer's recommended intervals. In extreme conditions, switching to synthetic oil, which is less susceptible to thickening, can be advantageous.
- Heater/Ventilation/Air Conditioning. In order to drive safely and comfortably, your vehicle's HVAC systems need to be in good working condition to keep the cabin dehumidified.
- Lights. Inspect all lights, replace burned-out bulbs and clear any grime that has accumulated on the lenses.
- Exhaust System. Your vehicle's exhaust system should be inspected for leaks. Take it to a professional who can place it on a lift and examine the system properly.
Other tips to consider:
- Emergency Gear. In case of a stall or an accident, keep the following items in your vehicle: blanket, small shovel, flares, gloves, boots, tire chains, snacks and beverages, flashlight or candle w/ matches, and a CB radio or cellular phone.
- Safety Belts. Make sure that all passengers are buckled up.
- Head Restraints. Accidents are an unfortunate yet common result of winter driving-especially rear-end collisions. Be sure to adjust head restraints to help prevent and reduce neck injuries.
- Planning Ahead. Before you get in your car and start driving, think about the safest route to your destination. Try to avoid bridges, hills and high-congestion areas.