The Basics - Prepping for Fall & Winter
After one hot summer, it seems that Fall and Winter have combined into it’s own personal season of beautiful colors of fall with the cold, windy temperatures of Winter. Whenever we move into cold weather, it’s a good idea to prepare your car not only to maximize the life of your vehicle but to ensure you and your family’s safety as well.
Here are some tips to get your Car Weather Ready:
Check your tires
With road conditions changing from rain to snow or ice, it’s best to service your tires in the fall before the nasty weather hits. The best way to start is by checking tread which can be done with the penny test:
Place a penny head first into several tread grooves across the tire. If you always see the top of Lincoln’s head, your treads are shallow and worn. If this is the case, your tires need to be replaced. If part of Lincoln’s head is always covered by the tread, you have more than 2/32 of an inch of tread depth remaining. This means your probably don’t need new tires.
All-season radials can get you through winter, but they need to be in good shape. If you’re unsure of what tires you need, you can always consult your vehicle user’s manual or the vehicle manufacturer’s website. Our Friends at Miller’s Tire can cover your tire needs as well at any Madison County location.
Extra Tip: Make sure your spare tire is filled up and ready in case you ever get a flat. Nothing adds to the headache of a flat tire like no spare to change. PLUS, always check your tire pressure throughout the cold seasons. Drops in temperature can affect your tires pretty quickly.
Have your oil checked
With extreme changes in weather, it’s important to see if your oil needs to be changed. Oil tends to thicken as it gets colder, and if it’s too thick it won’t do the best job of keeping your engine lubricated. Check your owner’s manual for guidance about which oil to use in different climates and temperatures.
Don’t forget the battery
Winters can be tough on your car’s battery. Make sure your battery’s posts and connections are corrosion-free and that your battery has all the water it needs. If your battery is more than three years old, a simple battery check test can be done by your mechanic to make sure you’re in the clear or if it’s time for a new one.
Hoses & Belts
When you have that full service done on your vehicle, make sure the belts and hoses get checked for wear and tear — even if you’re driving a modern car. Cold weather can do a number on belts and hoses, so they deserve attention.
Having 4WD in harsh terrain can make all the difference. Make sure your four-wheel-drive system is working correctly — especially because most drivers don’t use their 4WD systems in the pleasant summer months. Be sure that the system engages and disengages easily, and that all drivers in your household know how and when to activate the system.
Aim for having a 50-50 mix of antifreeze (coolant) and water inside your radiator. This will prevent the mixture from freezing even at ridiculously cold temperatures. It’s easy to check the status of the mixture with an inexpensive antifreeze tester, which you can pick up at any auto parts store. If the mixture is off, your cooling system should be drained and refilled or flushed. Asking your mechanic for a “Winter Ready Check” can be a good way to make sure all the bases are covered.
Have a winter kit
Good things to keep in a winter emergency kit vary but the basics are usually non-perishable snacks, water, jumper cables, blankets, flashlights and even a bag of cat litter just to name a few. While different climates demand different things. It’s always better to air on the side of caution and always keep a kit in your vehicle.
TIP: Thermal water bottles can be a great way to store water in your car without resulting in frozen messes.
Always fill up the gas tank
While we usually always fill up at the pump, it’s important to always make sure you have a full tank when making your daily drives. If you get stranded, a well fueled car can run longer to keep you safe until help arrives. Cold and constantly shifting temperatures can cause condensation to form on the walls of a gas tank in the red, and soon water will drip down and into the gas. It will eventually sink to the bottom, since water is heavier than gas, which is bad news -- if water finds its way into the fuel lines, it will freeze up, blocking any flow of gas to the engine.
Using sound judgement and preparation can ensure you and yours have a safe and happy fall and winter. If you’re unsure of where to start, a quick visit to your local mechanic is the best way to prepare. Have a safe season!