7 Ways to Winterize Your Car
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, 24% of weather-related vehicle crashes occur on snowy, slushy or icy pavement and 15% happen during snowfall or sleet. Sadly, this leads to over 1,300 deaths and more than 116,800 injuries in vehicle crashes on snowy, slushy or icy pavement each year. Since over 70% of U.S. roads receive more than five inches of snow each year, the chances are that most Americans will need to prepare their cars for winter driving conditions.
Here are seven ways that you can winterize your car:
1. Check your tires.
Having the proper tires may be the most important thing that you can do to winterize your car for safe driving. At the very least, you should have all-season tires with sufficient tread depth left. All-season tires can be identified by the “M + S” lettering that indicates the tire was designed for occasional use in mud and snow.
If you live in a region that regularly receives snow, it’s better to use a dedicated winter tire. Unlike the snow tires of decades ago, today’s winter tires, identified by the snowflake symbol, are designed to offer better traction in ice, snow and even on dry pavement in cold temperatures.
No matter which tires you use, always ensure that they are properly inflated to the vehicle manufacturer’s specifications.
2. Check your wiper blades.
Imagine a truck passing by you on the first snowy day of winter, throwing a muddy, wet mixture of frozen precipitation onto your windshield. This is the wrong time to learn that your wiper blades should have been replaced when you winterized your car.
Before the start of the winter season, examine your wiper blades to see if the rubber is cracked or broken. The blades should also remove washer fluid without leaving any streaks. If your wiper blades are the old style with a series of metal hinges, consider replacing them with a one-piece, all-plastic winter wiper. And, if you drive a hatchback or SUV with a rear wiper, be sure to check that one, too.
3. Check and fill your washer fluid.
Along with functional wiper blades, you will need a full reservoir of windshield washer fluid to help ensure that you can safely clear your windshield when driving in winter conditions. You should also make sure that the washer fluid is designed for winter driving and has a low freezing point.
4. Check your antifreeze.
Having a properly filled radiator is critical for winter driving, as you could overheat or suffer engine damage otherwise. You can visually check to see if you have the proper amount of coolant by checking the fluid level on the reservoir, but never open the metal radiator cap when the engine is hot. To check the freezing point of your coolant, you can use an antifreeze tester from your local auto parts store, or visit a mechanic.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, 24% of weather-related vehicle crashes occur on snowy, slushy or icy pavement and 15% happen during snowfall or sleet.
5. Check your battery capacity.
It’s hard to tell how much battery capacity you have, as your car may start normally until the first cold day of winter, or on the coldest day of the year. Colder temperatures will stress your battery and are more likely to trigger a failure during the winter. While winterizing your car, check your battery’s health by using a battery tester or by visiting your mechanic.
6. Ensure you have the right engine oil.
Be sure to check that your car is using the right oil for winter driving as recommended by the manufacturer. You can find this specification in your car’s owner’s manual. Thankfully, many cars now use synthetic oils that are designed for all-season use.
7. Stock your car with emergency supplies.
No matter how well you’ve prepared your car for winter, you should always carry emergency supplies with you. Your emergency kit should include supplies to help you in the event you are stuck in your car — such as a blanket, nonperishable food and warm clothing such as a hat, gloves and winter boots.
You should have supplies that can help you get your car unstuck, such as a shovel, and a bag of sand, salt or cat litter. Finally, remember to have some essentials like a flashlight with fresh batteries, jumper cables and a snow scraper.
By making a few preparations now, you can help ensure that your winter driving proceeds without incident.