If you live in places like say, California, winter driving can be as easy as a Santa Monica breeze. For the rest of us, it pays to be prepared for roads covered in ice, snow, and sleet. So here’s an easy winter car maintenance checklist to help protect your vehicle from the harsh weather ahead.
1. Protect your exterior
Take the time now to scrub away last season’s buildup from your vehicle’s exterior. Then apply a quality car wax to protect against the impending barrage of snow and road salt. Need help getting started? Here’s how to wash and wax like a pro and winterize your vehicle’s exterior.
2. Change your oil
Some of us don’t think about oil when it comes to winter vehicle maintenance. But this can be a good time to switch from conventional to synthetic if you haven’t already (and if it’s appropriate for your car). Cold weather starts can be easier on your engine with a full-synthetic oil. Synthetic flows freer at low temperatures and doesn’t require any time to warm up, providing crucial and immediate protection to the engine’s moving parts. Not making the switch? Try a synthetic blend. Synthetic blends consist of synthetic oil coupled with naturally occurring conventional oil. Check out oil specials at Advance, and be sure to add your vehicle to confirm which oil is right for your vehicle. For more in-depth information on this topic, read up on the debate between synthetic and conventional oil.
3. Maintain your battery
Summer’s heat takes a toll on batteries. That weakness is bound to show up on the first really cold morning, when your car won’t start because of a dead battery. Really, it’s why batteries tend to fail in winter. So swing by Advance for a free battery and charging system test, and replace the battery if it’s weak. Advance will even replace your battery after purchase, another one of the free services offered. A fresh battery is your best defense against cold weather, but it isn’t a guarantee. If you live in an especially cold climate or use your vehicle infrequently, you may want to keep your battery attached to a maintainer or trickle charger. That’s because your battery is working harder in cold weather and it will gradually lose power over time if it isn’t in use. You can also disconnect the battery from the vehicle to prevent power draws. If you do, just bear in mind you may lose some memory like radio presets.
4. Ensure your visibility
Being able to see where you’re going is always a top priority, but in winter it becomes especially important. Your first stop is to make sure all of your lights are working. If your headlights or tail lights are dim or yellow, replace the bulbs and clean your lenses. We also recommend that you replace windshield wipers with winter blades in climates where snow and ice can be expected, and fill the windshield washer tank with a deicing fluid. It’ll help you out on those cold mornings.
5. Inspect your tires
Traction is key here. Take a look at your tires. If the treads don’t have sufficient depth, get a new set. You’ll need the best traction possible for dealing with treacherous roadway conditions.
Pro Tip: The minimum tread depth for safe handling is 3/32. To check your tread depth, dig around in your sofa cushions and find a penny. Turn it upside down and place it in the groove between the treads. If you can see the top of Lincoln’s head, it’s time to replace your tires.
Depending on where you live, you may want to invest in snow tires. Not sure which tire type is best for you? Read about your tire options. Temperatures aren’t the only thing going down in winter. For every 10-degree drop in air pressure, it’s estimated that tire pressure decreases by one pound. Under inflated tires wear faster, hurt fuel economy, and can reduce handling and traction. So check your inflation regularly–it’s a cheap investment.
6. Check your antifreeze
The name says it all. Antifreeze is one of the most important winter chemicals, because the liquid in an engine’s cooling system is composed of a blend of water and antifreeze. Depending on the brand, either ethylene glycol or propylene glycol in the antifreeze prevents that water from freezing, expanding, and causing expensive damage to the engine. Use an antifreeze tester or take the vehicle to your mechanic to measure the antifreeze’s strength. This test indicates the lowest ambient temperature to which the engine is protected from freezing. Also check the coolant reservoir level to make sure it’s filled to the proper level. Top off your antifreeze or flush the radiator if it’s time to replace it.