Winterizing Your Vehicle

Midwest weather is a headache. Summers are long, muggy and hot. Winters are frigid, windy and full of snow. It seems like there are only a few months of mild weather in between. As summer reaches its conclusion, you might want to consider winterizing your vehicle ahead of time. Here’s what to inspect before the frigid winter hits.

Battery and charging system

Winter weather reduces battery capacity. The cold temperatures not only make it more difficult to start your engine but slow down the reactions in your battery. Stop by your local, certified repair shop and have the mechanics run a battery load test to see if it needs replacing. In addition, check the manufacture date to make sure the battery isn’t too aged. If the battery is older than three years old you should strongly consider replacing it.

Belts, hoses and any rubber parts

Double check and inspect all the rubber components within your engine. Rubber isn’t the most durable of materials, especially in regions with drastic temperature changes like the Midwest. Look for any cracks, frays and general signs of wear and tear. These materials are relatively easy to replace but can leave your car inoperable if they go out.

Tire Tread and brakes

Winter driving conditions require effective brakes and good tires. Make sure your brake pads and tire treads are not too worn as aged parts can cause accidents. Consider switching to snow tires or installing anti-lock breaks before winter arrives.

Tire Pressure

Tire pressure varies drastically with the weather and sub-optimal air pressure can affect fuel efficiency, tire grip and make winter driving difficult. Tires typically experience a 1 PSI drop for every 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Remember to check your owners manual for proper tire pressure, not the tire, and do not forget to inspect the spare.

Coolant Levels, fluids and adjust oil viscosity

Keep your anti-freeze levels up to par during the winter months. Consider a 50/50 to 70/30 antifreeze/water ratio. Check your owners manual and ask a technician what coolant is best for your vehicle, situation and engine.

Professionals recommend using a thinner oil with a lower viscosity in your vehicle during the winter months especially if the temperatures get very low like they do in the Midwest. Nebraska experienced a low of -17 and Iowa saw -8 degrees during last December. Thinner, synthetic oil is your best bet for surviving winter weather.

Lights

Winter weather compromises other drivers’ vision. Make sure all of the lights on your vehicle are functioning properly to help other drivers see your signals.

Heater, AC and BOTH defrosters

If you become stranded, the heater is the only thing keeping you warm—make sure it works. Faulty defrosters compromise your vision and create unsafe driving conditions, don’t forget to inspect the front AND rear defrosters. Also, consider running your AC for 10 minutes each week to prepare it for later use, keeping it “in shape” for the summer months.

Wiper Blades and fluid

Consider purchasing winter wipers with anti-freezing rubber. Remember to remove these wipers after the winter as they’re heavier and can take a toll on the wiper motor. Also, remember to keep your wiper fluid stocked with anti-freezing wiper fluid.

Emergency kit

You should keep an emergency kit in your car at all times, but make sure to alter its contents for each season. Your winter kit should hold

    • A winter coat/extra winter gear
    • Toolkits
    • Flares
    • First Aid
    • Pack of matches
    • Flashlight & batteries
    • Ice scraper
    • Non-perishable food & water
    • Jumper cables (you should always keep these)
    • Bag of sand & a shovel
    • Cell phone & a charged, portable charging brick
    • Extra antifreeze

Gasoline

Keep gas levels above half a tank. A half-full gas tank will not only prevent freeze-ups, but if you do get stranded you’ll still be able to use the heater to stay warm. Plus, keeping the gas tank half-full might even improve your fuel efficiency.

Keep up with regular maintenance

While it’s important to keep up with regular car inspections throughout the lifespan of your car, it’s especially important in the winter. Constantly check to ensure all fluids are at least half full to avoid freezing and be sure to monitor every area listed above. You never know what damage is done and avoiding winter breakdowns can be as easy as inspecting your vehicle for 5 minutes each week.

Service your vehicle

As you can tell, a lot can go wrong in the winter months. Stop by Shadow Lake Collision and Repair to get a second set of certified, professional eyes on your vehicle.