Disclaimer: For the best tips about your car, for the winter or anytime of the year, your best source is your dealership’s Service Advisor. They are knowledgeable about your make and model and will always give you the best advice and suggestions to keep your car running smoothly and your family safe.
Winter is here! We all know it comes after fall every year but every year it seems to take us by surprise. This year is no different. The calm mild weather had been here for so long that when we got snow over last weekend we were totally caught off-guard. At least I know my family and I were. So let’s take a look at some of the things that you can still do to prepare your vehicles and yourself for the harsh winter months.
With winter here, these are 5 basic winter car care tips to keep your vehicle intact during the worst weather of the year. These may seem like no-brainers, but the truth is many forget about these simple tasks – that slip can end up costing you big time and no one wants that!
Tip #5: Be prepared It’s almost December, now is the time to make sure your car(s) are prepared for the winter. Ideally, this should be done mid-Fall so you give yourself time to make sure everything is ready – before it is too late.
Tip #4: Check your wipers and wiper fluid levels Working windshield wipers and a solid supply of wiper fluid will ensure that you have visibility in the worst of snowstorms. Wiper blades only last a year. If you don’t remember the last time you replaced them, it likely is time for them to be replace. Depending on how bad your winters are, you may want to equip your vehicle(s) with winter specialized wipers. Lastly, make sure your car(s) have wiper fluid with a low freezing point and maybe even a de-icing agent.
Tip #3: Change your oil and find the proper viscosity – For this tip it’s best to talk to your service advisor. He/She can be your best source of information. The cold weather negatively effects oil’s effectiveness. The cold climates will make your oil thicker, reducing engine circulation. This can be avoided by purchasing oil that is thinner than normal, most vehicles provide a winter oil viscosity (thickness) in the owner’s manual – along with other proper oil viscosity for the changing seasons.
Tip #2: Have your battery checked. The only accurate way to detect a weak battery is with professional equipment. However, most motorists can perform routine care. If battery caps are removable, check fluid level monthly. A word of caution: Removal of cables can cause damage or loss of data/codes on some newer vehicles, so always check your owner’s manual first. A great suggestion would be to have a professional inspect the battery. This would avoid any danger, or car issues, that can come from inspecting a battery.
Tips #1: Consider getting snow tires. Yes, you read that right…Snow Tires. (Especially, if where you live is below 45 degrees all winter.) Snow tires are made of a softer rubber than all-season tires which allows them to retain flexibility, even in the coldest of cold. Tread patterns on these tires also allow for exceptional grip in the snow and ice. However, snow tires aren’t an instant-fix. They won’t remove the chance of slipping and sliding in your car, but they do provide more traction than standard tires.
Now that we have some car care tips covered, let’s talk about what you should have in your car in case you become stranded or stuck in the snow. There are a few key items that you should round up and put in a box or basket in your trunk. Hopefully, you will never need them but if you do, they are there. If you regularly travel with more people than yourself please make sure you pack accordingly.
Essential items to include in a winter survival kit, according to a combination of recommendations by Wisconsin Emergency Management’s Ready Wisconsin initiative and survival expert Peter Kummerfeldt’s OutdoorSafe website, include:
- Bottled water (at least four quarts)
- Snack foods, particularly nutritious energy bars
- Raisins, dried fruit, nuts, candy bars
- Strike-anywhere, waterproof matches and small candles
- A flashlight with extra batteries
- First-aid kit
- Folding knife and multi-tool
- Emergency flares
- An extra winter coat, mittens and a wool cap
- Winter boots
- Toilet paper
- Cellphone and charger
- A space blanket
- A spare blanket or sleeping bag (again pack accordingly to the number of people normally in your vehicle.)
- A portable radio with spare batteries
- Tow rope
- Nylon cord
- Flagging tape
- Chemical hand and body warmer packets
Don’t forget the kitty litter to use as a traction agent, jumper cables and maybe even a small shovel to dig out if necessary.
It’s always a good idea to let someone know when you are leaving and what route you are taking if you have to travel in a snowstorm. Of course, the safest thing would be to stay home until it stops and roads are clear. Make sure you have plenty of gas! If you do get stuck, call for help. Don’t over exert yourself and never ever leave your car and walk for help.
Most of all don’t panic! The calmer you are, the calmer your passengers will be and the less stressful it will be on all of you.