How Winter Ready Are You?

Winter is coming. That means, driving conditions become more hazardous as a result of slush, snow, and icy roads. Though we don’t see too much snow in the Southwest, it’s a good idea to prepare your vehicle for any kind of colder weather or for travel to snowy areas. Making sure you and your vehicle are ready to face the wintery elements is key to your safety and survival. Follow our winter checklist for vehicles and prepare yourself and your vehicle for the chilliest season of the year.

  • Replace or Refill Fluids:
    • Oil – During colder weather, engine oil naturally begins to thicken, making it harder for the engine to start up. Most vehicles today use a multi-weight oil that is acceptable for a wide range of temperatures, however, some manufacturers recommend different oils for certain temperatures. Consult your owner’s manual to see what is recommended for your vehicle. Tip: An engine block heater is useful in the likelihood that your vehicle will be exposed to extremely low temperatures. These electrical heaters, plugged into a home outlet, prevent engine oil from getting too cold or thick.
    • Coolant – This fluid is imperative in preventing fluid from freezing in the radiator. Refer to your owner’s manual for the proper antifreeze/water ratio and make sure the fluid is filled to the max fill line or cold level.
    • Wiper Fluid – Winter time is when windshield wipers get used most often, especially when coming across dirt, mud, and other impurities from the road. Check to make sure the windshield fluid reservoir is filled with a wiper solution that contains an element of antifreeze. Do not use water, as it can freeze washer lines, windshields, and cause damage to the windshield washer pump motor.
  • Warm Up:
    • Modern cars today are designed to be put in gear and driven right away. But, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should—especially in winter. Letting your car warm up, if even for a minute, gives the oil a chance to warm up and flow more smoothly. Tip: be gentle to your transmission. If the car is idling higher than normal at startup, wait until the idle speed drops before putting the car in gear.
  • Heater & Defroster:
    • If you want to stay nice and toasty warm, make sure your heater is functioning properly. Also, check to make sure that both the front and rear defrosters are directing warm air to the windshield or rear glass window.  Tip: if your car has a separate AC button, turn it on while using defrost mode. With the temperature set to hot, the air conditioning dehumidifies the air, clearing your view quicker. (Most cars will automatically enable the air conditioner when the defroster is in use.) Avoid using the recirculate mode during this time.
  • Battery:
    • Batteries aren’t fond of cold weather and their capacity is greatly reduced during the winter months. Have your battery tested to check the charge as well as a visual inspection of the cables and connections for cracks or breaks. The terminals should be clean and should fit securely with no loose connections.
  • Car tires on winter road Tires:
    • Pressure & Tread Depth Low air pressure and worn tires are extremely dangerous on wet or slick roads, reducing traction. Check to make sure your tires are set to the correct PSI as set by the tire manufacturer. Every ten-degree change in the ambient temperature could cause a gain or loss in PSI. Check your pressure and tread depth regularly, in the winter, and refill with air, nitrogen, or replace tires as necessary.
    • Snow Tires – If you travel through snowy areas frequently, having the correct tires on your car or truck can provide more stability and traction when traveling through snow. Many car manufacturers recommend all four tires be replaced with snow tires in the winter. An alternate choice is all-season tires that can be used all year, ideal for winter and summer and seasons in between.
  • Four-Wheel Drive
    • Four-wheel or all-wheel drive is a great feature to have for driving on icy or snowy roads. Have your four-wheel drive inspected prior to winter to ensure the system engages smoothly and that the transmission and gear fluids are set to the correct level.
  • Prepare for Emergencies
    • While being prepared any time of year is smart, it’s especially a good idea in the winter. Check your supplies twice a year and restock items as necessary. Be sure to keep your kit stocked with a first aid kit, lug wrench, jack, and road flares as well as these recommended items for the colder season:
      • Flashlight
      • Cell phone
      • Blankets
      • Warm clothing
      • Kitty litter or sand (to help if tires get stuck in snow, ice, or slush.)
      • Ice scraper and brush
      • Sealed container of coolant
      • Tools and jumper cables
      • Non-perishable snacks

Finally, be sure your vehicle has plenty of fuel in the gas tank. If you’re ever stranded, a running engine may help to keep you warm until help arrives.

Service Often

Make sure your vehicle is serviced by a technician you trust on a regular basis. Belts, hoses, spark plugs, and cables can experience difficulty any time of year, but if they fail during the winter, you could be stranded in a cold place for an extended period of time, which could be potentially dangerous.