Winter is tough on a car. The transition from water to snow and ice, the chemicals dumped on the roads and the risk of poor driving conditions all lead to potential damage. In order to make it through winter as smoothly as possible, here are a few things you can do to prepare your vehicle.
1. Get a Tune-Up
Before the first flake of snow falls, you should have a thorough inspection of your car performed. Check the battery to make sure it’s in good working order. Make sure your radiator has enough antifreeze. Check that the heater and defroster work, and get them fixed before the winter rush if they don’t. Check your tires to make sure they have enough tread remaining, or replace them entirely with winter-specific tires.
2. Ensure Visibility
Prepare for ice on the windshield by making sure you have enough washer fluid — specifically a kind of washer fluid that is resistant to freezing temperatures and can de-ice your windshield. For maximum visibility, look into a set of winter wiper blades that better stand up to rough ice and hard snow. Make sure your washer fluid can spray properly, and unclog the spray nozzles if it cannot.
3. Get a Car Wash
On a monthly basis during the winter, you should wash your car. If it doesn’t snow as much, you can put it off, but it might be beneficial if you drive frequently in icy and salted conditions. The chemical road salt used to de-ice roads in the winter will stick to your car and eat through the paint if you let it. Washing it off periodically helps keep your paint and body panels solid.
4. Carry a Winter Kit
If you drive in unpopulated areas, or if you plan to go on a road trip, pack a winter survival kit. This should include a car charger and spare battery for your cell phone, a dedicated ice scraper and snow brush for your vehicle and a first-aid kit. A few granola bars are important for certain emergency conditions as well. Carry some kind of sand, gravel or cat litter for traction in case your vehicle ends up stuck. This added traction might mean the difference between a smooth escape and a tow truck.
5. Keep Informed
Before you embark on any winter journey, check news websites or the local radio for weather conditions, including accident reports. Plan your route and make sure it’s free of obstructions. For long journeys, let a friend or family member know your route in case the worst happens.
6. Drive Safe
Drive slowly, carefully and gently. Sudden bursts of speed tend to spin the wheels in slippery conditions. Taking turns too quickly will cause a slide or a spin. Remember that bridges and other raised road surfaces with air beneath freeze before the rest of the road, and take them carefully. Always keep your car brushed off and the lights on, to ensure maximum visibility.
With safe driving habits and a well-maintained vehicle, you’ll have an easy time keeping out of danger in the winter. Road conditions may be dangerous, but they can be handled if you take it slow. A clean, visible car with plenty of traction and a clean windshield is the best asset for any winter driving situation.
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