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Have You Winterized Your Car Yet?

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With cold weather coming our way, your car may be acting differently than it does in more pleasant weather. If you haven’t winterized your car yet, what are you waiting for? Here are seven great tips to help you ensure that your vehicle is safe this winter.

1. Battery

Cold weather can do a number on your battery. In severe cold, a car battery actually holds less energy. If you leave a light on or a door slightly ajar, you could find your battery dead much more quickly than during the summer. It also takes more current to start your engine when it’s colder outside. So if your battery is weakened and your engine needs more energy, you may have trouble starting your car. Luckily, a battery that is in good condition should be able to handle the cold. Have a mechanic test your battery. If you need a new one, get one now. Even if you don’t need a replacement, a mechanic can clean corrosion and help your battery function better and last longer.

2. Tires

Two features of your tire contribute significantly to their ability to grip the road. The first feature is the tread on the tire. If a tire is new, the tread can grip the road well. But as the tread wears down, it loses its effectiveness. Make sure that your tires aren’t too worn. The penny test is good for a quick check. Place a penny in your tire’s tread with Lincoln’s head facing down. If the tire tread covers any part of Lincoln’s head, your tires can ride another day. But if you can see all of Lincoln’s head sticking out, your tread is less than 1/16” deep, and you need new tires. Also, the pattern of tire tread makes a difference. If you live in a region with lots of snow, consider switching to winter tires. Winter tires have a tread pattern that grips especially well in snowy conditions.

The second tire feature that affects its gripping ability is tire pressure. The air inside your tire is what keeps your tires pressurized, and the more air, the higher the pressure. The right tire pressure will ensure the perfect amount of contact between the tire and the road. But in the winter, cold air in your tire contracts. With every 10-degree drop in temperature, your tire pressure decreases by 1 psi. Checking and correcting your tire pressure is easy. Most gas stations have an air pump that fits your tires, and many pumps include a psi meter. The maximum recommended psi for your tire should be written on the sidewall of the tire. However, you can also check your car’s manual for the ideal psi for your vehicle. The ideal psi may also be on a sticker on the door jamb.

3. Wiper Blades and Wiper Fluid

The ability to see out of your windshield is important all year round. But winter weather can make it especially hard to see. It’s good to check on your wiper blades every change of season to make sure they aren’t worn down or ripping. Wiper blades that don’t have a smooth edge will leave streaks on your windshield. Replacing your wiper blades is easy and inexpensive. Most auto supply stores can look up the right wiper blades for your vehicle. If you’re unsure about replacing them yourself, most mechanics can replace your wiper blades relatively cheaply.

This is also a good time to check your windshield wiper fluid. If you live somewhere that experiences sub-freezing temperatures for extended periods, consider using a fluid made for cold weather. The cold-weather fluid will freeze at a much lower temperature.

4. Anti-Freeze

Anti-freeze keeps the coolant in your car’s radiator from freezing in very cold temperatures. The proper ratio of anti-freeze to water is about 1:1. If you’re not sure about your level of anti-freeze, you can get simple testers at most auto supply stores. Never open your radiator cap unless the car is completely cool. If the vehicle is hot, the radiator fluid could be under pressure. Opening the cap would release a jet of scalding hot fluid and steam that could cause severe burns. If you have any concerns about testing your radiator fluid yourself, go to a mechanic. It is a simple test and an easy fix for any qualified mechanic.

5. Oil

You should check your oil regularly, and timing it for the change of the seasons is an easy way to remember. However, winter weather has a unique effect on your engine oil. As it cools, engine oil becomes thicker and more viscous. When it’s thicker, engine oil doesn’t travel around your engine parts as easily and provides less lubrication. Your owner’s manual can tell you the recommended oil viscosity for both warm and cold weather. Before the temperatures begin to drop, take your vehicle in for an oil change, and replace your summer oil with a less viscous blend.

6. Emergency Supplies

It’s always good to keep some emergency supplies in your vehicle. Be sure you always have a first-aid kit, a spare tire, a car jack, and a lug wrench. It’s also a good idea to stock water and a flashlight. Before winter settles in, it’s a good idea to check your supplies and add some winter necessities. If you break down in the cold, you might want some emergency space blankets, flares, and hand warmers. Shelf-stable high-protein snacks are also helpful emergency supplies.

7. Belts and Hoses

Winter weather can take a toll on your vehicle’s belts and hoses. Flexible rubber parts become more brittle in the cold. Expansion and contraction in shifting temperatures can also weaken the material. If a belt or hose breaks while you are driving, your car will become immobile, and you’ll be forced to wait in the cold for a tow truck.

Go to a Mechanic

If you’re looking for any way to make sure your car is ready for winter, head to a reliable TrustDALE certified mechanic for a checkup and winterizing. TrustDALE recently took his wife Angie and her car to Havoline xpress Lube for a fair price and peace of mind.