The colder months bring new driving hazards and risks to your vehicle. Freezing temperatures, snow, ice, salt, and other winter conditions increase wear and strain on cars. Just as you adapt your wardrobe and daily routines when seasons change, your vehicle also needs special provisions to stay safe and functional through the winter.
This article explores essential winter maintenance tasks, how weather impacts cars, building an emergency supply kit, and measures to take before hitting the road in cold conditions. Equipping yourself with driving knowledge and readiness checklists will help ensure you and your vehicle both continue running smoothly all winter.
Understanding Winter’s Impact on Vehicles
It’s important to recognize how frigid temperatures, precipitation, and other environmental factors impact vehicles in unique ways. These include:
Freezing Effects on Engine and Components
Lower temperatures thicken motor oils while cold restricts battery efficiency and power delivery to starter motors. Vital fluids like windshield cleaner can also freeze in lines or tanks as temperatures drop. Even tire inflation pressure decreases in cold.
Road salts, especially ocean-sourced or magnesium varieties, bring corrosion risks from brine solutions sticking to car undercarriages. However, all deicing products promote faster metal rusting and wear.
Reduced Traction & Visibility
Precipitation like snow or ice on roads hampers tire grip, slowing acceleration and extending braking distance. Layered snow on windows similarly reduces visibility of surroundings, signs, pedestrians, and other cars.
These and other issues mean both you and your vehicle need special provisions for safe winter functioning. But smart preparation and adaptations will limit any troubles.
Essential Winter Maintenance Checklist
Walk through this checklist of key maintenance tasks to prep your car before cold or snow hits:
Inspect Battery & Charging Systems
Have a technician test for adequate cranking power. Cold saps battery effectiveness. Ensure connections remain corrosion-free.
Switch to winter-grade oil designed for colder flow. Lower viscosity oils perform better in frigid temperatures.
Check Antifreeze & Coolant Levels
Ensure antifreeze mix protects against freezing in winter temps while resisting summer overheating too. Top up any depleted coolant levels.
Examine Belts & Hoses
Cracks appear as rubber contracts in cold. Replace any worn parts now to avoid failures when you most need heat.
Assess Wipers & Fluid Level
Look for any splits, tears, or smearing/chattering during operation. Refill washer fluid with winter cleaner blends.
Have Brakes Serviced
Inspect pads, rotors, calipers, lines for wear now. Test antilock brake functionality. Better to replace worn components beforehand.
Verify adequate tread depth for snow/ice traction through a penny test or wear bars. Rotate to shift wear patterns. Purchase winter tires for added grip. Maintain inflation level for load/speed rating.
Check Filters, Plugs, Exhaust
Replace air, fuel, emission filters; ensure good spark plug performance. Spot exhaust leaks louder in winter. Service issues immediately.
Inspect HVAC System
Have the heating and defrosting system examined to guarantee suitable function for passenger comfort and safe driving visibility.
When in doubt, always reach out to a certified technician to assess components proactively. Don’t take any chances with critical maintenance items. Investing now guards against being stranded roadside during storm conditions.
Emergency Supply Kit for Your Vehicle
In addition to maintenance, every vehicle should carry an emergency kit to manage unexpected issues. Assemble these recommended provisions:
Safety & Security
- Flashlights with extra batteries
- Reflective triangles or flares
- First aid kit
- Multi-tool or pocket knife
- Window breaker device
- Whistle for signaling needs
- Local maps
Warmth & Shelter Essentials
- Heavy blankets, sleeping bags
- Winter coat, gloves, hats, boots
- Hand warmers, foot warmers
- High-calorie non-perishable snacks
Useful Vehicle Items
- Battery jumper cables
- Tow strap or chain
- Tire chains, car shovel
- Windshield scraper, deicer
- Container of sand or litter
With these supplies, you can signal vehicles, keep warm, make repairs, flag help, and survive comfortably for hours until assistance arrives. Regularly replenish any depleted stocks after a storm.
Driving Safely in Winter Conditions
Exercise additional caution when driving in snow, ice or heavy rain. Make these readyness checks before any trip:
- Clear all snow and ice off windows, lights, mirrors, and roof
- Buckle seat belts snugly and remind all passengers to do the same
- Adjust speed to conditions, leaving ample braking room
- Brake lightly with antilock brakes to prevent skidding fishtails
- Accelerate gently and avoid abrupt steering movements
- Keep high beams on during heavy snow for better visibility
- Take extra warm outerwear to manage breakdowns comfortably
- Plan routes to favor major roads, which get cleared and treated first
You hold the power to prevent accidents by driving defensively for the conditions. Slow down, focus fully on driving, and eliminate all distractions. With smart preparation, supplies, and safe practices, you will stay secure and mobile all winter long.
Let us know if you need any other winter driving tips! Our team has extensive guidance to offer communities dealing with severe cold, heavy snowfall events, and icy roads. Just ask! We wish you and all local drivers safe travels this winter season.