If you haven’t noticed, winter is quickly approaching. In fact, some areas are already experiencing the effects of cold and snow. Brrrr! With that said, Winter can play a detrimental role in your vehicle. Here is a car winter checklist that you need to do in order to reduce the likelihood of your car breakdown during the winter months.
No matter where you live at some point the weather will change for the worse. Now, don’t get me wrong you, folks, down in the deep south more than likely will not see snow. However, the weather still changes and this checklist will help you as well.
The most important part of this checklist is it needs to be started now before it is too late. The last thing you need on a cold morning is for your car not to perform at its peak.
Just like that battery light that you continually check on your phone when you don’t charge it the night before, your vehicle has a battery as well. Duh, you probably knew that much. However, what you might be interested to know is that a typical battery only lasts about 3 years. So the big question is how old is your battery?
A battery’s worth is measured in cold cranking amps. Meaning, how well does it perform under a heavy load. Your battery can seem to function just fine and still be considered bad. That is to say, it may not have enough cold cranking amps to start your car in the wintertime.
What is the difference you might ask? Well, it is physics. When you start your car in warmer temperatures the engine requires less force to get the parts inside moving. But, in colder temperatures, the engine requires more force to get the parts moving. Basically, it expands and contracts. In the summer the metal is contracted and in the winter the metal is expanded.
Ok, that is our science lesson for today let’s move on. Any place that sells automotive batteries should be able to perform a simple load test on your battery to see if it is up to winter standards. This should be a free service.
Wipers Go Swish, Swish, Swish
No pun intended the song was stuck in my head. On a more serious note, You should change out your wipers blades every 6 months. That is about all-time you normally will get.
I recommend a set of winter wiper blades. That is to say, that the winter blades are more durable and don’t freeze up as fast as a normal wiper blade.
The brand name is irreverent just choose a wiper blade that is designed for winter use. they typically will have a rubber boot installed over the moving parts so snow and ice will not interfere with the operation of the blades.
Consequently, throughout the season it is a good idea to clean the blades to prevent streaking. For example, the other day my daughter was complaining that she needed a new set of wiper blades because it was hard to see out the window in the rain. I simply took a wet rag and wiped the surface of the blade (the part that touches the window) and her wipers were good as new.
Wash That Windshield
Windshield washer fluid is something you always forget until you press the button and nothing comes out. Come on you know that I am right. Well now is the time to stock up. It is best if you use the winter mix it tends not to freeze as fast.
As a result, when you need to wash that salty,grimy, road dirt off of your window so you can see the car in front of you, the washer fluid will not be frozen.
Speaking of salty, grimy road dirt, keep in mind the tip about cleaning the wiper blades off occasionally.
How deep is the tread on your tires? Another important part of getting your car ready for winter tires. Chances are you haven’t changed your tires out lately, if ever for that matter. Now is a good time to take a good look around. Check your tire depth and the condition of your tires. You shouldn’t need an expert to tell if you need tires.
That is to say, a good rule of thumb is to take a penny and place it inside the tread with lincoln’s head facing toward the tire. If you will notice there is a raised section in the tread this is known as a wear bar. Place the penny on the wear bar and if you can see to the top of lincoln’s head you need tires.
As far as, the condition of the tires, it is possible to have plenty of treads left on the tire. However, if the tires on your car are older and you don’t drive a lot of miles they could be dry-rotted. For example, you will see cracks in the sidewall of the tires. This will indicate it is time to purchase new tires.
What Tire Do I need
Tires come in in many sizes and styles. However, you only need to decide if you want to pay extra for snow tires. Most tires that are sold today are considered all-season radials. meaning, they work well in different weather conditions.
Some tire manufactures do still make what is known as a snow tire. The downside to a snow tire is you need to change back to your all-season tire in the spring. So, this to me is an added cost. Especially since you will not wear out the snow tires in one season.
Therefore, I recommend a good set of tire chains that can be put on when the snow really comes down. Now if you live in an area that gets a little snow each year your all-season radials will perform just fine in snowy conditions.
Hit the Brakes
Throughout the year your start and stop your car thousands of times. Your brakes do a lot of heavy lifting during the year. As this happens your brakes wear down gradually.
To clarify, you normally will not notice until the first day you have some ice on the ground and your car does a circle when you go to stop. To avoid this have a professional check your brakes. Most service centers will perform a brake check for Free in hopes that you will have your car serviced at that location.
However, if you noticed that you have a pulsing brake pedal or a shimmy in your steering wheel when you apply the brakes this is a good indication that you could have a warped rotor or brake drum.
Other than being annoying when you stop, you normally will not notice a difference in stopping your car when applying the brakes. On the other hand, on an icy road, that rotor or drum will lock up causing you to spin out of control.
Keep Your Cool
One last thing to check off of your car winter checklist is the radiator coolant. This should be done by your local technician. However, you can easily purchase a coolant tester anywhere automotive parts are sold and perform the service yourself.
A coolant tester simply measures the temperature rating of the antifreeze/coolant that is in your car. Since it is normally recommended that your coolant be changed about every three years it is possible that you will need to flush your coolant system.
As time goes by, the coolant that is installed in your radiator loses its efficiency. Meaning it may not work as advertised. If the coolant tester reveals that your coolant is not going to operate at temperatures that you are expecting in your area it is time to flush your radiator.
Making sure that your car is ready for the winter is very important. However, it is just as important to have an emergency kit in the trunk of your car. It never hurts to be prepared for the worse.
A few items that I recommend are:
- Kitty Litter
- Ice Melt
- Jumper Cables
- Cell Phone Charger
Most items are self-explanatory but, I would like to elaborate on the snacks and water.
I was stationed in Iceland for a few years. There was one particular time when we were stranded for a couple of hours with my son who was a toddler at the time. He became hungry and we didn’t have any snacks in the car. I literally scraped snow off the outside of the car to give him something to chew on to keep him from crying. That was all it took for me to ensure that I always kept snacks in the car.
This is just a guide on getting your car ready for the winter. I am sure there are other things that should be done. The important take from this is to ensure you are prepared for the worst-case scenario and you will never be left stranded in the cold. I hope this helps. If you have any experience to share or would like to comment on this post please leave a comment below. I will surely answer them.
About the Author
Chuck Adkins is a veteran and a work at home Granddad who owns several blogs including Help Baby Fall Asleep. Check out his blog to find out more about this guest writer.