In the winter, an improperly maintained vehicle can be the difference between life and death. This might sound severe but a breakdown in a remote location, in sub-zero temperatures can be just that. Let’s look at some of the areas on your vehicle to have operating at peak efficiency before the snow starts to fall.
If you’ve never looked at your owner’s manual, or your current vehicle is new to you, this would be a good time to get it out and look it over. Are there some items the manufacturer recommends for winter use? Do you know how to change a tire, check fluid levels, etc. Be prepared before you head out.
Have you noticed any running issues with your vehicle? Stutters, difficult starting, lack of power? If so, get these checked immediately so an engine issue doesn’t leave you stranded.
Something as simple as a dirty filter can impede performance and increase fuel consumption. When was your air filter or fuel filter last replaced? Dirty cabin filters can cause less heat and fogged windshields. Small items like these can have big driving implications. Plan to get these basic service items replaced.
Always try to keep at least half a tank of fuel in your vehicle during the winter. Moisture, due to the cold, will create some condensation in your tank. Water in fuel is not a good thing. It doesn’t hurt to also carry a bottle of Fuel deicer in case it’s needed.
Have your cooling system checked over. If it has been more than two years since you system has been flushed, it needs to be done. The proper antifreeze/water mixture means the engine runs at the correct temperature and the heater works properly. Have any hoses, belts and clamps inspected for wear and replace if necessary.
While your cooling system is being checked, it’s also a good time to make sure the heater and defroster are in peak condition. A drive in freezing rain is not the time to find out you don’t have the heat necessary to keep the windows clear. Check the condition of wiper blades and switch to winter washer fluid too.
A battery charging test is simple to have performed and it will tell you the state of your battery and alternator. Cold weather is hard on batteries and weak ones will leave a driver stranded. Check for corrosion around the terminals and clean them with a stiff wire brush.
Are your headlights aimed properly, it gets darker earlier and stays darker longer in the winter. Clouded lenses can be professional restored with a difference being like night and day. Replace any burnt bulbs so you can be clearly seen on the highway.
In the summer, windows are often open but during the winter, you want to keep all that heat inside. If you have any type of exhaust leak, this could be deadly. Have the system inspected as well as your trunk and underbody for any small holes exhaust gases could seep in through.
It goes without saying, winter tires are best for winter weather. Check your tire pressure (including the spare), check tires for cracks, cuts or nicks. And, if you decide you can get through the winter on your all-season or summer tires, stay off the road in bad weather for the benefit of those who wisely chose to run the proper tires for the conditions.
It doesn’t hurt to have other components given a once over by a qualified mechanic as well. Brakes can be damaged by salt which cause corrosion. Winter is also the wrong time to discover your transmission is acting up due to not being serviced at the correct interval.
And finally, carry an emergency kit. Blankets, work gloves, a shovel, sand, a candle, waterproof matches, snacks and a phone charger are just some of the useful items. Preparation can save lives in emergency situations.