Prepare Your Vehicle for Winter
Winter is hard on your vehicle, especially in the northern portions of the country. The freeze/thaw cycles and road salt can be especially damaging to the exterior and chassis of your car, truck or SUV. Here are some tips to keep your vehicle going this winter while minimizing the repairs.
Have your antifreeze (or as most mechanics refer to it, engine coolant) topped off and tested to ensure that your antifreeze will protect your engine during the lowest-expected temperatures in your area of the country. This is especially important if you have moved from a warm-weather climate to a cool-weather climate recently. If you haven't flushed your coolant system in the last five years, consider speaking to your mechanic about having this maintennance done. Antifreeze failure can lead to ice forming in your engine, which can cause cracks in your engine block and hoses, and lead to expensive repairs.
Have Your Battery Tested
Cold weather can expose a battery's weaknesses at the most inopportune time. Low temperatures reduce the amount of power output by your battery which can prevent your vehicle from starting. Have your battery tested, especially if it is three or more years old, to see if it is up for the rigors of winter weather.
Emergency Survival Kit
Drivers in both rural and urban areas are susceptible to flash snowstorms and ice storms which can cause accidents and backups that can leave them stranded for hours. Be prepared by packing an emergency kit to help you through these situations. Helpful items are:
—Extra winter clothing items such as gloves, heavy socks, winter cap and long underwear
—Non-perishable food items such as dried fruit, granola bars, jerky, trail mix, etc.
—Hand-crank charger for your smartphone
For additional winter-weather survival tips, visit the North Dakota Department of Transportation Winter Survival Tips Web Page.
If you live in the extreme northern part of the US or any other area that is suceptible to heavy snow conditions, consider installing a set of snow tires on your vehicle. Snow tires can increase traction when driving and just as important, help you stop in shorter distances on snow and ice, especially when combined with modern ABS systems.
Keep Your Vehicle Clean
Remember to take care of your car's finish. Wash the vehicle regularly to preserve the finish. Apply wax and sealant to protect the paint from the snow, ice, salt and sand.
Consider putting a coat of wax on your headlight lenses, which can prevent ice from forming on your headlights, and in the event that it does, will make removing the ice easier.
In addition, cloudy headlight lenses can prevent you from seeing the road well. A headlight repair, cleaner and restoration kit will return cloudy headlights to like new condition.
Check Your Tire Pressure Regularly
Falling temperatures reduce the air pressure in your tires, which can cause the treads to be less effective than they otherwise would be. Tires can lose up to one pound of air pressure per 10 degree drop in temperature. Once temperatures fall, check all four tires for correct air pressure, which is typically found on the inside of the driver's door jamb. If your vehicle is equipped with a Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS), pay attention to the "horseshoe" warning light which can indicate one or more tires with lower than optimal air pressure.
Does your windshield smear or get streaky when you use your wipers? If so, it's time for a new set. Wipers that work properly are vital to your safety when driving in winter conditions.
After snow/ice storms where roads have been treated, be sure to wash the undercarriage of your vehicle to remove road salt and sand that has been applied to the roads. Salt can cause your suspension to rust, and sand can accumulate in various areas on the underside of your vehicle.