I walked outside this morning and found the telltale sign of the approaching winter season. My car glistened in frost. It was in that horrible moment, that I had to endure waiting while my car defrosted, that I realized: Winter is coming. I took a steamy sip out of my coffee thermos and contemplated how I could make this daily morning process better, because as the months creep on, the weather will only get worse. Here is what you should do before Winter strikes:
1. Invest in a decent snow brush/Ice scraper for your car
We’ve all been there. You can’t wait for your car to defrost all on its own, and you’ve got to put a little muscle into making your windshield transparent again. The ice is thick, so you work harder and suddenly – Snap! – the handle separates from the scraper. Few things are as infuriating in the winter mornings, and the best way to avoid it is to make sure you have a sturdy snow removal brush/ ice scraper. It may be tempting to grab a cheap one from the bargain bin, but the quality of your purchase here can make or break your morning.
2. Make sure your wipers are in good shape
Windshield wiper blades, in general, should be replaced annually. If you’re not as scheduled about your replacements, take a moment to check them, now. Any tears, or other signs of damage, can leave you with an unclear windshield in pivotal moments.
3. Check the fluids in your vehicle
It is important to stay on top of regular maintenance of our vehicles. Part of that includes making sure you have the correct levels of fluids in your vehicle. This includes the anti-freeze – or coolant – levels in the vehicle, which are crucial for optimal engine function. Consult with your owner’s manual for the proper coolant to use, and if you need to switch to a lower viscosity engine oil for the winter months.
4. Inspect your hoses and belts
If your hoses and belts have small cracks in them, the harsh, cold temperatures are going to make them more brittle. Add the level of heat that is quickly generated by your engine and you’ve got the perfect situation for those components to break. Check these parts now and save yourself a massive headache down the road. It may serve you best to have a mechanic look these parts over. Often their trained eyes will catch things that most of us wouldn’t notice.
5. Check your tires
One of the most common tire issues during the winter is under inflation, which occurs because the chilly temperatures cause the pressure to decrease in the tire. Always take a moment to make sure that your tires have the proper inflation for optimal road contact. While you’re down there, take a look at the tread depth on your tires. If they look worn down, you’re taking a risk driving on them in the winter. The often-slick conditions of winter time are especially dangerous if you’re in need of new tires. While many people would gravitate to an all-weather set of tires, if you live somewhere that gets significant snowfall you may want to invest in winter or snow tires. Here is a helpful guide to buying them.
6. Make sure you have at least a half tank of gas at all times
This is a must for many reasons. One reason is that it can help prevent freezing of the fuel line, but more importantly what if you get stuck somewhere and your engine is the only source of heat until help arrives? Best to have plenty of fuel in case you end up stuck in traffic for hours, or worse.
7. Pack an emergency kit
If you’re stuck, it’s best to have an emergency kit readily available. The kit should have some basics for everyday automotive needs such as jumper cables and road flares, but for the winter you’re going to need a little more. Be sure to have gloves, a warm coat, and blankets with you. You may also want some non-perishable snacks and drinks just in case you end up stranded for a while. It will be helpful to add a small shovel and bag of kitty liter or sand. These things can help you dig out of a mess and gain traction. Just be sure it is safe to get out of the vehicle, because a crowded road with uncontrolled cars sliding past is a perilous situation.
8. Plan your morning
Look at weather reports before you go to bed so you know what to expect in the morning. A little bit of preparedness can be the difference between being late and driving with risky behaviors or arriving safe, warm, and on time.
Many of these tips are irrelevant if you have the luxury of having a garage, or any kind of covered parking, but, for the rest of us, we have to endure the extra effort of winter mornings. With these tips, you’ll be in better shape to endure the colder months and enjoy the windows down driving of the Spring.