1. Create a winter emergency kit
Your winter emergency kit may resemble your usual emergency kit with the addition of warm clothes. Put together a few basics in case cold weather and icy conditions leave you stranded. A good winter emergency kit should contain:
- Wool blanket, gloves, and insulated clothing
- Reflective vest
- Battery operated radio
- Abrasive material like sand or kitty litter to help tires gain traction
- Extra windshield washer fluid
- Extra coolant
A variety of issues may leave you stranded during winter. Prepare now to get out of any troubles you might encounter.
2. Check engine coolant and antifreeze levels
Inspect that your engine coolant and antifreeze levels are at the recommended levels. Antifreeze excels at preventing rust and corrosion from building up on your cooling system and prevents other fluids from freezing in your engine during winter. Coolant keeps your engine from overheating and allows it to run smooth, even in very harsh climates.
3. Check tires
Make sure your car is equipped with all-weather or winter tires. Summer tires will guarantee slipping and sliding all winter long. All-weather or snow tires have deep grooves, giving you great traction during not-so-great weather. Consumer report offers a handy rating guide for various types of tires.
If you have appropriate tires for winter conditions, great! Next, use the penny test in the image above to see if your tire tread will be adequate for the weather to ensure your car stays on the road.
4. Use winter windshield wiper fluid
What’s the difference between regular windshield wiper fluid and winter wiper fluid? Winter wiper fluid is ready for the harshest conditions. Winter wiper fluid allows for use at a lower temperature (check bottle for exact temperature) and can even help melt light frost and ice.
5. Inspect windshield wipers
When examining your wiper blades, check for:
- Worn rubber
- Broken frames
- Metal wear
Lift carefully. If your car is older, the wiper arm might be more fragile than you’d expect. Also, clear off all snow before turning on your windshield wipers. Using wipers to clear off snow adds extra wear to the wiper motors. If you notice any of the before mentioned issues, or if your wiper blades aren’t clearing the windshield well, consider buying new wiper blades.
6. Switch to synthetic oil and durable oil filter
The colder it gets, the more important your oil becomes. In fact, Ramon Nenez, spokesman for Purolator Filters NA LLC said, “The most obvious point to consider when temperatures dip very low is your choice of motor oil… and filter.”
At 20°F, most oils have the thickness of maple syrup, causing the oil pump to force cold, thick oil through the engine. Synthetic oil has friction modifiers that allow the oil to flow smoothly through the engine and continue lubricating parts to prevent an engine breakdown.
7. Invest in a quality ice scraper
It might seem silly, but having a quality ice scraper will make your life much easier on ice-cold mornings. Many options are available:
- Gloves attached to the ice scraper
- Telescoping arms
- Heavy Duty Brushes
Think back on your experiences scraping your windshield and consider what you need most. Be sure to find a scraper that you know won’t crack (literally) under the pressure.
8. Check the battery
Cold weather puts extra stress on your vehicle’s battery, making it extra important to check that your battery has significant charge. A battery with little life left can put a driver in danger of being stranded in the cold as harsh weather puts extra stress on batteries. Also examine that the battery isn’t cracked. A cracked battery can leak and malfunction. An average car battery lasts about 5 to 7 years, so if your battery is around that age, or older, consider replacing it with a new, reliable battery.
9. Test your car’s heating system
You don’t want to spend all winter driving in a freezing vehicle. Inspect the entire heating system for cracks in hoses or any loose connections. Run your heater and defroster to make sure both work. The defroster is essential to guarantee peak visibility. Heating vents make sure you don’t have to thaw yourself off your seat.
If there is an issue with your car’s heating mechanisms, take the vehicle to a mechanic for further inspection. If you’re a DIYer, you can try some of these tips from Chris Fix.
10. Wash and wax vehicle
Waxing your car before winter provides an extra layer of protection against the ice, salt, and dirt winter brings. A layer of wax keeps paint protected; handy if you plan on reselling your vehicle.
11. Consider a roadside assistance membership
While a roadside assistance membership may not seem like a necessity, consider this scenario: It’s below zero outside, and your tire is suddenly flat. Wouldn’t it be nice to call someone to change that tire for you while you sit in a nice warm car? A roadside assistance membership is a nice assurance if a family member is stranded during severe winter weather.