Winter weather can really make the roads treacherous to travel. With the slush, snow, and ice covering the streets, it’s important to maintain your car throughout the winter.
If you are like me, you may not know a lot about maintaining your car. I grew up in a family of mechanics and still can’t tell you much about the pieces and parts of an automobile. Any time I hear a rattle or a whine I go to my Dad to ask questions. And like most people, I don’t have money to dedicate to keep my car running in tip-top shape. Often times, simple maintenance is over looked.
So, I’ve consulted with my personal mechanics to bring you this list of simple winter maintenance. No need for the grease monkeys or gear heads, this is an easy do-it-yourself checklist.
- Check Your Tires
- Tire Pressure – As the temperature goes down so does the pressure in your tires. It’s important to maintain your tire pressure to get optimum gas mileage and prevent excess tire wear. Every type of tire has a different desired pressure or PSI, you can find the correct PSI in the owners manual for your car.
- Tire Tread – It’s important to check the tread depth of your tires to prevent excess wear. Using a penny used to be the common way to test the tread. Now days it is recommended that you use a quarter for the test. When you place the quarter in the tread of the tire you should NOT be able to see the top of Washington’s head. The higher the tread on the tire the better traction you will get when driving through the snow and ice. Depending on where you live and how much snow and ice your area may get, consider purchasing snow tires.
- Antifreeze – Antifreeze or Engine Coolant is essential to maintaining a healthy engine year round. It prevents the engine from freezing in the winter and over heating in the summer. To check the levels, most cars have a white plastic container that you could see through and lines to tell you how high it should be. It is also important to maintain a 50/50 mixture of Antifreeze and water. If you are unsure if the mixture is accurate you can have it checked at most auto repair shops or even purchase your own tester. You can find a tester at stores like Advanced Auto Parts, Sears, or AutoZone
- Windshield Wiper Fluid – When the roads are covered in slush and muck, your windshield is often covered too. It’s very important to maintain good visibility while driving. By keeping your windshield wiper fluid full you will be able to wipe away all the winter grime and see clearly through your windshield. To check the wiper fluid there is a plastic container similar to the Antifreeze container. Be careful when checking and be sure not to mix the two. Windshield wiper fluid is a blue color while Antifreeze is either green or pink. You may also want to consider new wipers for better performance. It is recommended to change your windshield wipers once a year.
- Oil – Checking your car’s oil is very important to maintaining a healthy engine. The oil helps the engine run smoothly and efficiently. To check your oil you simply find your car’s dipstick, you pull out the dipstick and wipe it off with a paper towel or rag. Once the dipstick is clean you replace it by making sure that it is in all the way, and you remove it for the second time to look at the end. Most dipsticks only have two lines, one labeled “full” and one labeled “add”. If your level is below full, you will want to add as much as necessary. It is also important to have a routine oil change which is recommended every 3,000 miles or every 3 months.
- Gasoline – With gas prices increasing, most people don’t often keep a full tank of gas. However, with the colder weather it is crucial to keep your tank as full as possible. With an emptier tank it is possible to develop condensation in the tank leading to water which could freeze and cause sever damage. Also, in the chance of being stranded or sliding off the road a full tank of gas with help to keep your car warm while waiting for help.
- Lights – Have you ever seen those cars with a head light out or gotten angry with the cars who have no brake lights? To ensure your safety as well as the safety of everyone else it is vital to routinely check to make sure all your lights are working. It is a quick and easy test, but may require two people. You can check your head lights by simply turning them on. To check your brake lights ask a friend to watch the lights as you step on the brake. And don’t forget to check your turn signals.
- Battery – The winter weather is extremely hard on your battery and could prevent your car from starting. You’ll want to check the battery clamps for corrosion and make sure the clamps are tight. If there is a white powdery substance around the clamps you will want to clean them with baking soda and water. If your battery is older you may want to consider buying a new one, it is recommended to replace your battery every 3 to 5 years. Most places will offer discounts on new batteries if you bring in your old one for an exchange.
- Car Washes – With all the salt and slush on the roads, your car is in danger of rusting. To prevent the corrosion and rust routinely wash your car. This will help to keep your car looking squeaky clean and in tip-top shape
- Windshield Scraper and Brush – When your car is covered in snow and ice, you will need to have a scrapper to clear the windows for visibility.
- Booster Cables – Should your car fail to start, booster cables will be able to jump start the battery with the help of another car.
- Flashlight & Extra Batteries – If you get stuck at night you’ll want to be able to see. A flashlight will allow you to check underneath the car for any quick repairs, or flag down someone who can help you.
- Blankets & Extra Clothes – It’s always good to have extra blankets, coats, gloves, hats, and scarves left in the car. You never know how long it will take for help to arrive in case of an emergency.
- Flares & Distress Signals – If you are stranded on a remote country road, flares will be able to send of a powerful signal to someone that you are in distress.
- First Aid Kit & Pocket Knife – If any injuries are sustained, a first aid kit can help alleviate any wounds or symptoms. Most of them carry the essentials like band aids or pain relievers.
- Salt – If your car gets stuck in the snow, having a bag of salt will help to melt the snow. You can also carry sand or kitty litter to help with traction.
- Food & Water – Depending on how remote the area is that you are traveling in, you may want to bring along some extra food and water. It is always key to have an extra bottle of water or some crackers in the car.
- Candles & Lighter – Candles will help with light, and warmth, as well as a way to melt snow for water. Some people also pack a metal can as a place to melt the snow.
Cash Back Resources
Consult your car’s owners manual for more car specific maintenance, and follow the Boy Scout motto “Be Prepared” this winter!