Cars, trucks, vans, SUVS – whatever you’re driving – all need to be prepared for the winter. We’ve all put a lot of money into our vehicles so we don’t want a little cold weather to cut the life of our cars short. I learned the hard way you have to winterize your car if you want to keep it running well all season. Here are some tips.
Winterize Your Car: Antifreeze & Snow Tires
One misconception some people have about their cars is that antifreeze is only important for winter. In fact, it’s not. You need to maintain a mixture of 50% antifreeze and 50% water in your vehicle all year long, but it’s particularly important in the winter. The best way to check the mixture is by purchasing and using an affordable antifreeze tester at an auto supply store (the testers cost a few bucks).
With antifreeze, you need to keep in mind that most antifreeze is lethal to animals, particularly dogs and cats. If you have pets or even small children, you need to keep your antifreeze safely away from them. A better idea is to purchase propylene glycol antifreeze. This type of antifreeze is considered much safer and is now available from a number of brands. It’s still a bit hard to find in stores though and it does cost a little more.
If you’re in an area where slick roads are the norm, then you should consider purchasing a set of snow tires for your vehicle. Snow tires won’t guarantee you’ll be accident-free all winter, but they do provide better traction on slippery roads, especially if your current tires are worn down.
Other Ways to Winterize Your Car
Your windshield wipers are one of the most important parts of your car’s safety, and we often forget that wiper blades aren’t meant to last more than one year. Getting in the habit of changing those blades every autumn is a good choice because no one wants to change them in the dead of winter. You should also check and refill your wiper fluid so you’ll have plenty when you need it.
Another vulnerable part of your car is the battery. Cold temperatures can reduce your battery’s power anyway, but if it’s not working well before winter then you could end up getting stranded in a bad situation. Many auto shops and mechanics can check the status of your battery in just a few minutes. If you’re already a reliable customer, then they may not even charge you for the service.
And that brings us to a final important way to winterize your car: have an emergency kit. You never know when bad weather, an accident, or mechanical failure is going to leave you stranded somewhere and that can be deadly in winter. Sure, your cell phone may be useful but you may still have to wait hours for help. Make sure to keep warm blankets, flashlights, extra food and water, jumper cables, flares, a first aid kit, a snow shovel, an ice scraper, and abrasive kitty litter (for traction) in your car. Hopefully, you’ll never need it but you’ll be thankful you had it in case you ever do.