Winter Car Maintenance

Winter can create wonderlands, but it also can wreak havoc on your car.

Have no fear! We’ve got everything you need to know to stay safe and to keep your car purring during the period when Jack Frost holds sway.

  • Leaves block your gutters, so you remove them. Otherwise, you’re aware that water could do damage to your roof or to other parts of your house. The same holds true for your car. Those leaves that manage to work themselves into that gap near the windshield aren’t just annoying; they can stop water flow and cause leaks or corrosion.
  • Even though we don’t tend to receive sub-arctic temperatures in the Triad, they’re not unheard of. Thus, you should consider adding a bottle of fuel de-icer—available at most auto supply stores—to your tank once a month. De-icer keeps moisture from forming in your gas tank. For that matter, keep your tank close to full because it also helps keep your fuel line free from ice-causing moisture.
  • Check your tire treads. Winter tires probably aren’t a necessity in these parts, but worn tires can make your car much more likely to slip and slide in ice and snow. If you’re not sure you have sufficient tread, use the coin test. Take a quarter and put it into several different grooves. As long as George Washington’s head is covered by the tread, you’re safe.
  • While you’re at it, keep an eye on your tire pressure. Tires lose pressure as the temperature drops. An underinflated tire won’t have the traction of a tire that’s fully inflated and, thus, could cause you to hydroplane and have an accident.
  • If you’re not sure about the age of your battery, then take your vehicle to an auto parts shop and have it tested. Many stores won’t charge you for having your battery tested. After all, if your battery isn’t what it used to be, you’ll probably buy a new one on the spot. Cold weather makes your car’s battery work much harder than usual, so make sure it’s up to the task.
  • If your car is older, consider having its exhaust system checked for leaks. Even small holes can let deadly exhaust fumes into your vehicle. Most newer cars have engine coolant that lasts for up to 150,000 miles. However, if you have an older car, then you might consider a “flush and fill,” which will remove sediment from your vehicle’s engine coolant system and infuse it with a sufficient amount of antifreeze.
  • Keep your windshield washer fluid filled. You’re likely to go through a surprising amount of it during even a mild winter. In addition, make sure you’ve got fresh wiper blades, preferably rubber-clad, winter-style blades. And some folks swear by this little tip: If snow and ice are imminent, pop your wiper blades up. This will make it easier to scrape your windshield free of whatever frozen detritus winds up affixed to it.
  • Wax your car’s headlights. Take standard car wax, rub it onto clean headlights, let it dry, and buff it off. Ice will have a harder time accruing on your lights as a result.
  • Finally, put together some sort of survival kit. Items could include blankets, boots, gloves, flares and/or a whistle (to summon help), kitty litter (for traction), a flashlight and batteries, a plastic bag (use it to gather snow for water) and some high-energy (and non-perishable) snacks.

If you follow these tips and use your common sense, then there’s not much Old Man Winter can do to ruin your enjoyment of winter’s beauty.

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