Just as the cold weather can cause damage to your home or your health, it can also damage your car. Your car’s engine and other working parts are constantly exposed to the elements and need to be cared for with steps that go just slightly beyond your regular maintenance schedule. You’ll also need to adjust your driving habits during the winter, for safety reasons.
Winter Car Maintenance Tasks
One of the first things you need to do is clean out debris – fall leaves, twigs, and even furry friends who may be trying to hide under the hood. Debris can build up around pipes or other areas where water is supposed to flow, causing leaks, corrosion, and other types of damage.
Your tires should be checked as well. At a minimum, make sure you are checking your tires regularly for wear to the tread and proper pressure. A tire can lose a pound of pressure for every 10 degree weather drop, making them unsafe for driving. While most cars have “all season” tires, you may want to consider winter tires if you live in an especially cold or snowy climate, as they offer better tread and traction.
Check your wiper blades and wiper fluid. When your wiper fluid gets low in the fall, switch to the winterized fluid that won’t freeze so that you can use it during winter storms or to help clean your windshield. You may want to switch to a beam-style wiper blade, which won’t freeze as easily because it doesn’t have an external spring.
Finally, check the car battery regularly. The cold weather will stress it out. A lot of shops will test your battery’s load, so you’ll at least have an idea of how much time you have before it needs to be replaced. This will give you the chance to change it yourself as opposed to paying someone after your car dies and has to be towed.
Safe Winter Driving
Of course, caring for your car doesn’t mean you can ignore the harsh winter weather while driving. Driving in snow, ice, or winter mixes isn’t easy or fun. Make sure you always have at last a half tank of gas, always wear your seatbelt, and keep an emergency breakdown kit in your car.
One of the safest things you can do is keep your eye on the weather and avoid unnecessary outings. Slippery and icy roads are just that – and they’re dangerous.
If you must go out, never, use cruise control, especially if the roads are wet or icy. Everything you do – from accelerating to slowing down – will take longer, so you need to drive slowly and double your following distance as well.
Moving slowly will also help you to regain traction if you lose it, especially after stopping at a light or stop sign. If you can avoid stopping completely, by slowing down a considerable distance before a stop light so that it turns before you’ve stopped, try to do so.
If you are stuck on a hill, don’t slam your foot to the gas pedal. You’ll only make your wheels spin. Try to gain some momentum on the flat road before you start up so that you don’t have to slow down or stop on the ice and end up rolling backwards.
The winter months present some interesting driving issues. Take care of your car and use caution when you absolutely have to be on the road. Otherwise, stay home, stay warm, and stay safe!