Getting Ready for Winter Motoring
Although I’m not an expert, I thought I’d share some of the things I think about when preparing our cars for winter driving. I’d be interested in your ideas too.
In the long, dark days of winter, it’s good to see and to be seen. Be sure to check all of the lights on the outside of your car and fix any burned out bulbs. You may need a friend to help you check the brake lights. I’m amazed how many cars I see during my daily commute with brake lights that don’t work correctly.
If you have fog lights, don’t forget to check those too. My fog lights do not improve my ability to see in fog (since I have HID headlights), but they make it easier for other cars to see me. It’s good to keep all of your lights clean and functional.
If your windshield wipers are more than a couple of years old, you might want to opt for new blades. However, sometimes they just need a scrubbin’. I fill a bucket with a tiny amount of dish soap and some hot water. The solution is very watered down. Then I use an old toothbrush to scrub both sides of each blade – this loosens up dirt and grime. Next use a strong paper towel (I use heavy duty “shop” paper towels from the auto parts store) to wipe the loosened gunk off of the blade. Be sure to do the rear window wiper blade, if you have one.
While some folks swap to winter tires, many of us will just keep driving on the same tires all year round. As winter approaches, make sure you check your tire pressure. Cooler weather can result in lower pressure.
When your tire pressure doesn’t match the manufacturer’s recommendations, your tire shape will not be optimal, resulting in generally reduced performance and predictability. The recommended tire pressure values for my car are in the center console arm rest; you may find yours in the door jamb of the driver’s door.
Coolant, aka Antifreeze
We often think of engine coolant as essential to summer driving, but it also protects your engine during the winter – particularly in very cold climates. Fresh engine coolant will protect your engine from freezing – which can result in serious damage. The frequency for changing your coolant depends on the car; check your owner’s manual for specifics on your car. About once every three years is pretty typical, although some of the newer cars can go longer.
If you are going to do the change yourself, be careful! Coolant is poisonous, but has a scent that attracts many animals. Don’t leave it where a pet could drink it. Also, be careful not to let it drain into a storm sewer.
One note of advice – if you take your car to a shop to have the coolant changed, do not have the engine “flushed.” Do not do it. Don’t even think about it. Just tell them, “No thank-you.” Nope, nope, nope.
As always, keep fresh oil in your engine. Regular oil changes will do more to keep your engine in good shape for many miles than almost anything else. There are many arguments about the kinds of oil and the frequency of changes; crack open your owner’s manual to discover what’s best for your car.
You have one of these in your trunk, right?