6 Things You Can Do To Prepare Your Car For Winter

Now that fall has arrived and winter isn’t far off, it’s a good time to prepare your car or truck for the harsh driving conditions that are just around the corner. Since winter driving and heavily salted roads can be tough on just about any vehicle, doing some basic prewinter maintenance now may save a headache or two down the road.

1. Battery

One of the first things to do is make sure that the battery and the charging system of the vehicle are in good working order, says Mark Bijani, owner of Kalamazoo Imports in Kalamazoo. “In winter you need a good battery so that in cold weather you have enough power to crank the car and get it started,” he says. “Obviously if the car doesn’t start you can’t go too far.” Because cold temperatures can be really taxing on a battery, it may be a good idea to replace it if it’s nearing the end of its life expectancy.

2. Coolant

A vehicle’s coolant should definitely be checked before cold weather hits to make sure that it is set at the appropriate freeze point. If the coolant freezes up it can destroy the radiator or the engine block, and that can lead to expensive repairs, Bijani says. It’s important to make sure that the coolant can handle at least 35 to 40 degrees below Fahrenheit zero, he says. Many auto shops will check a vehicle’s coolant free of charge, Bijani says.

3. Belts

Belts should be checked for wear, says Jason Blades.  “Any time you see cracks within an inch of each other along a serpentine belt, it’s time to replace that belt,” he says. Cold weather can break a rubber belt down and make it slip more. “A lot of people will hear a squealing sound when a belt starts to go bad, but sometimes there’s just no warning and they’ll break and they’ll leave you stranded wherever they break,” Blades says.

4. Tires

Tires should be inspected during prewinter maintenance as well. “In winter, because of the cold weather, there is always contraction between the rubber and metal; if you have weak tires they can start leaking and the next morning you wake up and you’re going to have a flat tire,” Bijani says.

It is also important that tires have plenty of tread as they head into the winter months so that they have good traction on the roads, Bijani says. “If you have a bald tire or a tire that doesn’t have enough tread left, it can make the car slip and slide a lot easier than a good tire,” he says. Check the sidewalls for any cracking or cuts.


5. Wiper blades

It’s a good idea to head into the bad weather months with effective wiper blades. “Usually if you hit a rainstorm you’ll know if your wipers are bad,” Blades says. “Another thing to look for is the ends to see if they are torn, so they are not coming apart when snow and slush and ice gets on your windshield.”

Winter driving often presents challenges, and although the windshield wiper fluid may not contribute to a vehicle running more smoothly, it will help with visibility when salty slush may be splashed up onto the windshield. It’s a good idea to keep the wiper fluid reservoir full and have some extra on hand. “It is usually topped off during an oil change, but that’s certainly something you want to have when it does get nasty out,” Blades says.

6. General maintenance

In addition to prewinter maintenance, people should also follow the manufacturer’s recommended guidelines for general maintenance to keep their cars in top shape, Bijani says. That can help prevent an unexpected breakdown on the side of the road, which, although unpleasant at any time of the year, can be especially uncomfortable during the cold winter months. “If you did the factory’s recommended maintenance, then the chances of that happening is reduced to a great extent,” he says.

Don’t ignore existing problems with a vehicle, even small ones, says Blades, because small things can turn into very large things, especially when the weather is extreme.

If you are like a lot of people, your vehicle is an everyday necessity that the entire family relies on. To help ensure that your car or truck runs smoothly even in the harshest of weather, you may want to consider doing preventive maintenance before the first snow flies.

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