Many areas of the country have been seeing unseasonably warm weather this year, but most forecasters agree that it's not yet time to hang up our coats. So use this comparatively mild weather like a snooze button for winterizing your home-away-from-home. If you haven't prepped your car for winter yet, now is the time to get it done.
Winter is here. The extreme temperatures and other environmental factors can wear your car down faster than you can say "Is it Spring yet?" Here are some ideas to help you get the ball rolling, protect your car for the remainder of the winter months and to help you get a jump start on next year's preparations.
Keep an Eye on Your Fluids
Maintaining your car's fluids is important year-round, but it becomes even more important once the temperatures start plummeting. Specifically, you need to consider your coolant, your oil and your wiper fluid.
Coolant requires the appropriate mixture of water and antifreeze to function properly and prevent the coolant from freezing in colder climates. While that might seem a little redundant, you know what frozen water can do to the pipes in your house, right? You really don't want that happening to the internal components of your engine. Your owner's manual will have information about the proper mix of water and antifreeze to provide optimum cooling without freezing your engine.
Your oil is also affected by colder temperatures. The cold makes oil thicken, and thick oil doesn't flow or lubricate as well. Many car manufacturers recommend that you switch to thinner viscosity oil during the cold winter months. Again, your owner's manual has all the information you need.
Finally, make sure you pick up a bottle of winterized washer fluid for your windshield wipers. You'll usually see washer fluid sold in two types — over 32 degrees and under 32 degrees. The latter is formulated to keep the fluid from freezing when you need to wash your windshield in colder temperatures.
You can make your own washer fluid, but if you live somewhere really cold, make sure you add isopropyl alcohol to keep the fluid from freezing. If your windshield or windows are frozen, keep a bottle of 1 part water, 2 parts rubbing alcohol in your car to defrost them quickly.
Don't Forget the Interior
If you're climbing in and out of your car in the winter, chances are you're tracking in slush, snow and salt from the roadways, which can turn your car's interior into an outright mess. If you've got carpet mats in your car, consider swapping them out for some rubber all-weather floor mats.
Not only do these stand up to the constant barrage of winter weather better than carpet, they help protect your floor's upholstery from water and salt. You can even pick up some Scotchgard designed to protect your car's interior, but you do need to refresh the treatment every six months or so to make sure it remains effective.
Protect Your Car's Feet
Tires are tricky during the winter months, but they're also the most important thing you need to check when you're winterizing your car. Incorrect tire pressure causes your tires to wear unevenly, leading to leaks, blowouts and other problems that you don't want to deal with when the roads are covered in snow.
Pay attention to the depth of your tread, the inflation of your tires, and any sign of wear that might indicate your tires need to be rotated or replaced.
Always Be Prepared
When the snow gets high, you don't want to be stuck without the supplies to stay warm until the tow truck arrives. Create an emergency kit to keep in your car at all times. Stash things like flashlights, snacks, blankets, gloves, jumper cables, tire chains and anything else you can think of to help you stay safe on the snowy roads. While you should do this before the first snow falls, it's not too late!
If you do get stuck in the snow, don't use your heater or keep your car running unless you're positive your tail pipe is clear! A New Jersey fire department did an experiment to see how quickly a snow-blocked tail pipe can fill a car with carbon monoxide at dangerous levels, and it only takes one minute and 24 seconds.
In less time than it would take you to call a tow truck, your car could fill with carbon monoxide and turn an inconvenience into a tragedy. If you're stuck for a while, take a couple minutes to dig out your tail pipe and check it periodically to make sure it stays clear.
Winter is easily one of our favorite times of year. You can't go wrong with snow, warm fires, hot drinks and good company, but it's also one of the hardest times of year for your car. Taking a few steps to winterize your car and care for it throughout the cold months can help you protect your investment and make sure you're safe while you're out driving in the snow.