As we ease our way through autumn, still enjoying the warm days and benefitting from the nice sleeping temperature of the cool nights, many want to pretend that the winter weather isn’t going to come. But, with winter weather comes dangerous travel conditions, extra wear and tear on your car, and the potential for more issues while you drive.
Making sure your car is in top condition and prepared for the winter weather and temperatures can go a long way toward keeping you safe and prepared for any emergency. It is a good idea to get your car or business fleet inspected in detail by a qualified mechanic in the fall before the seasons change. Here are some things you’ll want to have checked to be ready for winter:
- Your Brakes: Of course your brakes are an essential safety element to your car all year round, but they become especially important in winter weather when stopping quickly can be difficult with slippery road conditions. Be sure to get your brakes checked to ensure they are in top condition before the winter weather comes.
- Your Battery: Everyone knows the frustration and panic associated with heading out to your car only to discover that it won’t start. Extreme cold makes your car require more power from your battery to get started than more moderate temperatures. Have your mechanic test your battery to ensure that it is fully charge and get a replacement battery before winter if it is nearing the end of its life. As part of this inspection be sure they check your drive belts, generator or alternator and your voltage regulator for issues as well.
- Your Lights: When was the last time you had the bulbs in your headlights replaced? Do you even know? If it’s been a while consider having them replaced or if you are comfortable replacing them keep a spare handy in case you need it. Make sure that your lenses are not so foggy or dirty that they reduce your headlights’ ability to perform. When driving in the snow your lights don’t only help you see the road, they help other drivers see you!
- Your Ignition System: This is another frequent culprit in the sudden car-won’t-start syndrome. Have your mechanic do a thorough inspection of all wires, spark plugs, and the distributor cap to lessen the odds that you will have an issue.
- Your Tires: Your tires are the number one thing that will affect your car’s ability to grip the road in snow and ice. Make sure that your tires are in good condition with plenty of tread and they are properly inflated at all times (you should check your tire pressure frequently in the winter months as small variations can have a big influence on your traction). If you live in an area with frequent heavy snowfall and you must drive in it, consider snow tires which have larger treads and softer rubber to better grip the road in snowy conditions.
- Your Windshield and Wipers: Visibility is difficult enough in a winter storm without added hazards from your windshield. Check your windshield for any dings or cracks and get it repaired or replaced before winter if necessary. Small dings can suddenly crack in extreme temperatures. Make sure that your windshield wipers don’t show any tears or frays and that when you distribute washer fluid onto your windshield they wipe the windshield completely clean without streaks. Make sure your washer fluid is an anti-freeze type that will stay liquid even in extreme cold. Throughout the winter be sure to top off your washer fluid often so that you can keep your windshield clean and clear. Consider keeping extra in the car.
- Your Heating and Cooling System: Malfunctions in your heating system won’t just leave you cold in the winter, they can impact your ability to properly defrost your windows which could be very hazardous. Make sure everything is working properly ahead of time. Also get your cooling system checked out and make sure that it has appropriate amounts of anti-freeze so that it won’t freeze up, and have it inspected for leaks. You engine still needs coolant no matter how cold it is outside.
- Your Exhaust System: Carbon Monoxide poisonings increase in the winter time because we run heat and close our windows. Your exhaust system keeps your car’s interior safe for you by removing dangerous gasses from the vehicle. Have your exhaust inspected for leaks. When it does snow, always make sure your exhaust pipe is clear before running your car, and if you get stuck in the snow in a storm, crack a window to keep fresh air entering the vehicle for extra safety.
- Safety Kit: Consider keeping a winter emergency kit in your car in the winter time. AAA recommends that drivers keep the following in their cars throughout the winter time: a small shovel, ice scrapers and brushes, some abrasive material like sand or cat litter, traction mats, flares, extra windshield washer fluid, a blanket, gloves and mittens, paper towels, flashlight, and jumper cables.
Don’t wait until the first big storm to realize you aren’t prepared. Take care of these important maintenance and safety items to reduce your risk of car trouble this winter. At NARFA, we help our members be prepared with our health and safety tips. Please contact us to learn more or to join NARFA for benefits you can only get with the power of numbers.