Winterizing Your Vehicle

The winter months are hard on your vehicle. Cold temperatures can affect its operation, while dirt and road-salt residue can cause problems with its physical condition. However, there are some simple checks and maintenance items you can do that will help your vehicle stay in top condition. Cold temperatures make it harder for an engine to work properly. Snow and ice limit traction.

Not sticking to manufacturer-scheduled services and regular maintenance can be a costly and dangerous mistake for car owners. And those risks can run even higher in cold winter weather – when worn tires are that much more likely to skid, and a breakdown can mean getting stranded in freezing temperatures.

Potholes damage wheels and tires. Salt causes rust and gravel pits the paint. But there are things you can do to help your vehicle in this time of duress. Following are some easy steps to “winterize” your car. In fact, they are so easy, a talking car could figure them out! Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Winterizing help drivers get winter vehicle maintenance “down cold.”

  • Consider using snow tires.
  • Check the tire pressure.
  • Make sure your vehicle’s four-wheel drive system is working properly.
  • Change the engine oil and adjust the viscosity grade.
  • Inspect the belts and hoses.
  • Inspect the wipers and wiper fluid.
  • Check the battery.
  • Check antifreeze mixture.
  • Carry an emergency kit inside the car.

Be sure winterizing is effective by:

  • Checking the anti-freeze in radiators and windshield washers.
  • Check battery charge and fluid level.
  • Check the exhaust system.
  • Check wipers, lights, defrosters, brakes, tire pressure and tire treads. Drive with your headlights on, especially on cloudy days when visibility is poor. This will help other drivers see you better. You can get your vehicle moving much better with a slow start on ice and snow than you can by accelerating fast. Slick pavement demands slower speeds than normal. Having good brakes is no aid when the pavement is slick and the tires don’t grip the pavement. Because of diminished traction and treacherous footing, be prepared and have an “out” if something happens up ahead of you. You can do that by simply increasing your following distance. Extra caution on curves is needed. Slow down before the curve, and then accelerate lightly after you start to make the curve. Tire chains are the best insurance to provide traction, aid you in stopping and avoiding skidding. Your toolbox in your vehicle should contain the winter emergency equipment recommended by the National Safety Council plus two clean rags and a scraper. Even your driving attitude might need changing. Give extra caution to other drivers who may not be as adept at driving in our Colorado snow as you may be. Allow for your trip to take some extra time. It is a certainty that slippery roads and different levels of driver comfort in bad weather conditions will slow traffic.

Anti-Freeze Check

First, check your anti-freeze. Most anti-freezes are an ethylene glycol based fluid with low freezing and high boiling points when mixed with water. As one example, GM vehicles use a particular anti-freeze with a 100,000-mile or 10-year rating. We specifically mention this because (it’s red in color) it shouldn’t be mixed with other anti-freezes (usually green or beige).

Consider a switch to winter tires. If you drive a lot in slippery conditions, it’s a good idea to replace summer or all-season tires with a set of dedicated winter tires. These have tread patterns and rubber compounds specially designed to grip snow and ice, for optimum traction on slick roads. Winter tires typically have shorter tread life and generate more road noise than the all-season tires that your vehicle came with. But the extra safety they provide is generally worth the compromise.

Please consult your vehicle manual and maintain your vehicle as recommended. If your vehicle is due for a tune-up, you should have it done BEFORE winter sets in. Any existing problems with your vehicle can be magnified by cold weather.

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