9 Ways You Need to Prep Your Car for Winter

Driving is dangerous any time of year, but winter brings a whole new set of challenges that drivers aren't always prepared for. Between the icy roads, falling snow, and freezing temps, drivers have a lot more to battle than just rush hour. The good news is that drivers can significantly reduce their risk of car accidents, mechanical failures, and damage to their vehicle by following some basic prevention techniques for surviving winter driving. If the thought of driving in sub-zero weather makes you shiver, then follow these nine tips to prep your car for winter.

  1. Keep your tires inflated and invest in snow tires

    Winter takes a serious toll on your tires. On average, tires lose one psi (pound per square inch) for every 10-degree temperature drop. This means that winter is one of the easiest times to end up with an under-inflated tire, which can lead to reduced traction, a flat tire, and even a car crash. It's crucial that you keep your tires inflated and maintain the recommended psi to prevent tire problems and accidents. You also might want to consider investing in snow tires to provide more traction on slick surfaces.

  2. Replace your wipers

    Winter weather can severely limit drivers' visibility, therefore it's crucial to have properly working wipers on your vehicle. Before you venture out into the winter storms, you need to make sure your wipers are up to snuff. If your wipers are one year old, it's time to replace them with new ones that are specially designed for wintertime use. While you're replacing your wipers, you might want to think about getting wiper fluid that contains a de-icer for increased visibility and protection.

  3. Brighten your lights

    Cloudy windshields and reduced daylight means drivers will need to rely on their headlights to guide the way and make them visible to other drivers. Broken and dirty lights are extremely hazardous for you and other drivers on the road. Before you start driving in these dangerous conditions, you must make sure your lights are working and are bright enough for all to see. If the headlights need some brightening, you may need to polish the plastic coverings and wipe off the headlight lens to make them glow.

  1. Test your car battery

    Car batteries are very unpredictable and can die at any given moment. Extremely cold temperatures may cut a battery's life in half. So before you start driving in freezing temps, you should have the battery tested by a mechanic or an auto parts store. They will also check the charging system and belts to make sure those parts are working properly and there is no corrosion on the battery connections. If you have to get a new battery, make it a strong and reliable one that will get you through the tough winter months and beyond.

  2. Check your heater and defroster

    Winter driving would be even more miserable if it weren't for the heater and windshield defrosters. If your car comes with these convenient features, it's a good idea to make sure they are working correctly and will be able to tackle the hellish months ahead. While sitting in your car, give the heater, windshield defrosters, and A/C a test run. If you notice any problems with these features, bring your car into a mechanic. According to Edmunds.com, you can speed up the defrosting process by turning on the A/C and leaving the temperature dial on warm to keep you from freezing.

  3. Inspect your cooling system

    A major part of preparing your car for winter is inspecting and maintaining the cooling system. Drivers need to have a 50-50 mix of coolant (antifreeze) and water in their radiator, which will prevent the mixture from freezing at low temperatures. The coolant you use should be compatible with the winter temperatures in your area. In order to maintain an optimal 50-50 mixture, you'll want to pick up an antifreeze tester that will indicate if the cooling system should be drained and refilled or flushed.

  1. Get a tuneup

    Before the cold sets in, you should visit your mechanic for a tuneup to reveal any problems and have parts fixed or replaced to keep your car running smoothly. During this winter tuneup, ask the mechanic to examine the whole vehicle and look for any leaks, bad hoses, and any specific part problems that need to be fixed immediately. Also, be sure to speak up about any problems or changes you've noticed, so that the mechanic can find or fix the issue before it gets worse.

  2. Get the right kind of oil change

    Oil changes are a part of regular car maintenance, but winter months may require a different kind of oil change that has the right viscosity (thickness) for your car. Oil has a tendency to thicken when temperatures drop, so it's important that your car receives oil with the correct viscosity to keep the engine lubricated. In addition to getting the right oil change for your vehicle, it's important for drivers to keep their gas tank full during winter. If you get stuck or stranded in the cold, you'll at least be able to get heat from the engine and stay warm while you wait for help.

  3. Make a roadside emergency kit

    Even with the most vigilant maintenance and winterizing, things can still go awry. Therefore, it's crucial to be prepared in the event of a breakdown. There's no end to the amount of emergency items you can carry in your car during the winter, but there are some essentials that you definitely don't want to leave home without. Drivers should stock their cars with a blanket, a first-aid kit, energy bars, and bottled water. You should also carry jumper cables, a flashlight, chains, a small knife, flares and a lighter, a shovel, an ice scraper, and a bag of kitty litter or sand to provide traction if you're stuck in the snow.

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