You wouldn't head out into cold weather without bundling up. Your vehicle faces similar challenges as temperatures drop. The bottom line: it needs a little extra care as the mercury plummets. A little preparation before winter sets in may help prevent major headaches later.
What You Can Do
- Make sure you have a heavy-duty ice scraper and snow brush in your vehicle.
- Cold weather reduces tire pressure, so check tire pressure often. See your owner's manual for directions and details.
- In severe winter temperatures, you may have to change the grade of your engine oil. Check your vehicle's owner's manual for the viscosity grade recommended for your vehicle's engine.
- Check your wiper blades. Cold temperatures can make blades brittle, and ice on the windshield can cause nicks in the blades, decreasing performance.
- If you're planning a trip, take a blanket, extra-warm clothing, a collapsible shovel, a bag of road salt and an extra bottle of windshield-washer fluid.
- Put on snow tires if you live in major snow-belt areas. Check your vehicle's owner's manual for details and recommended practices.
Even in climates that don't see subfreezing temperatures or regular snow, the change in season is a great time to have your service center technician inspect or check the following areas:
Antifreeze – A quick and simple check of the coolant will tell immediately how much protection it will deliver in cold temperatures. Antifreeze that is good to 0° F or -10° F might be fine for Arizona drivers, but not so for those in Minnesota. Make sure your antifreeze will do its job for your area's typical winter temperatures.
Battery – Very cold weather saps the cranking capability of a battery, and a marginal one that did the trick in the summer may not start your car when the thermometer drops. Have the battery inspected and replace it if the cold-cranking amps aren't sufficient—it'll be easier in the long run than a couple of jump-starts on a freezing January morning.
Belts and hoses – Extremely cold temperatures can increase the chance of failure for worn or cracked belts and hoses. Use the change in season to have them inspected and replaced as necessary.
Tires – Cold temperatures can reduce the air pressure in tires, so making sure the tires are properly inflated can enhance fuel economy and prolong the life of the tires. Also, be sure to have the tread wear inspected. For drivers in areas that see ice and snow in the winter, adequate tire tread often means the difference between an easy commute and a tire-spinning ordeal—or getting stuck.
Wipers – Winter brings precipitation, be it rain, snow, sleet or all of the above. Have your car's wipers inspected for normal operation and have the wiper blades replaced if they smear, streak or "chatter." You'll also want a full reservoir of washer fluid for the winter. One more thing: If you live in a snowy area where the roads are routinely salted, have your car washed often throughout the winter. It will ward off rust and protect the finish of the exterior paint and wheels.