Preparing Your Car for the Cold
Simple car maintenance tips for safe driving this winter
Welcome back, Old Man Winter
Temperatures have dropped, the days are shorter and ski season has begun. This can only mean one thing: winter is here. Just like our immune systems during the season change, our cars also need a little, "T.L.C." too. Below are five safety tips to keep your four-wheeled friends well maintained while it's cold.
Getting regular oil changes are vital for your car’s health no matter the weather conditions. Engine oil keeps the engine properly lubricated and absorbs contaminants. Cold weather affects the viscosity of oil making it thicker and slower. When the oil is too thick, it can prevent your engine from starting. Talk to your technician and see if you should consider winter grade oil at your next oil change.
Car batteries take a beating in hot weather and can leave your battery in a depleted state when winter hits. Cold weather presents a new set of demands on a car battery. A cold engine takes more power to start and batteries are less efficient in the cold. Check the voltage with a car battery tester to see if your battery needs to be charged or replaced. A fully charged battery should read about 12.6 volts. Keep in mind the average lifespan of a battery is three to five years but regular maintenance such as keeping it clean can help extend the battery life.
Antifreeze lowers the freezing point of the fluid in your car and keeps engine from freezing when the thermometer dips. It also helps prevent corrosion and rust. The recommended antifreeze to distilled water ratio is 50/50. If the fluid in your radiator looks dirty, it may be time for a flush. Antifreeze is harmful so be sure it is disposed of properly and responsibly.
Low tire pressure or tread can make driving hazardous, especially in wet or snowy conditions. Cold weather affects tire pressure and causes them to deflate. Check your tire pressure as soon as the cold arrives to ensure they are properly inflated. Your owner’s manual or a sticker inside the driver side door will list the recommended level, which is typically 32-35 psi for passenger cars. To check your tire tread, stick a penny, headfirst into the grooves. If you can see all of Lincoln’s head, you have less than 2/32” which means it’s time to replace your tires.
Don’t wait until the roads are slick and icy roads to find out if your brakes are worn. If you live in an urban area with a lot stop and go, your brakes take more of a beating. Regular brake inspections to ensure brake pads and brake fluid is maintained will help maximize the life of your brake system.
These are just a few winter car care recommendations. If you’re planning a road trip or heading to the mountains, it’s always wise to carry snow chains and an emergency kit.
Remember, regular maintenance will keep your car in top performance, run more efficiently and avoid costly problems down the road.