5 ways to prepare your car for winter
By Kevin Byrne, AccuWeather staff writer
The winter season can be detrimental for cars, which is why it's important drivers prepare well in advance of when the harshest conditions arrive.
Ed Gliss, a test driver and technical expert for Michelin, said the best time for car owners to begin preparing vehicles for cold weather is in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving.
"Temperatures are dropping; you're starting to get a little bit of frost overnight. That's a good reminder to start winterizing your vehicle," he said.
Whether you're on the highway or warming up the car in the driveway, the winter season can cause trouble in a variety of ways.
Here are five ways to make sure your car is ready to withstand cold weather for a safe driving experience.
Monitor tire pressure
Gliss said it's important to check your tire pressure once a month, especially during the winter, since a tire's pressure can drop as the air becomes colder.
"An under-inflated tire underperforms and does not wear good for the consumer," he said.
Tire pressure is measured by pounds per square inch (PSI). If uncertain about what level of PSI your tire should be, the proper inflation level can typically be found inside the driver's door jam.
In addition, there are specific styles of tires that can help navigate wintry weather better than others. A good rule of thumb is to at least have an all-season tire when driving in conditions below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. For those living in regions where temperatures may routinely approach zero, Gliss said it's wise to look into winter tires, which are built for superior traction and handling on snowy or icy roads.
Have your battery tested
Battery capacity decreases significantly in cold weather, so it's important to have a mechanic examine it to ensure it's at peak performance, according to Michelin.
"It becomes increasingly important to have a well-performing battery in those cooler temperatures. It's just harder on the cells and it robs their battery capacity," Gliss said.
Parking a car in a garage, out of the freezing cold, is another way to protect the battery. Having jumper cables handy is also important, not only if your car breaks down, but also in case you come across another motorist in need of a jumpstart.
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Look for cracks in windshields and make sure wiper blades are in working order
"If you have cracks or chips [on the windshield], they are likely to worsen in extreme cold temperatures. So I recommend getting those repaired or looked at by an expert," Gliss said.
Gliss also recommended replacing wiper blades to ensure they can handle the various elements and keep the windshield clear. In addition, he said it's important to use a washer fluid that's rated for subfreezing temperatures.
Car owners should also make sure their defrosters are in proper working order to assist with maintaining visibility.
Add a coat of wax to your car
Michelin states that a fresh coat of wax before the snow starts falling can help protect a car against damage from salt and dirt on the roads.
Road salt, while an important factor to combat icy roads, can cause extensive damage to vehicles over time because it is corrosive.
Turtle Wax recommends using its product on the lower parts of the vehicle, including behind the wheels, quarter panels and front grille. This is because ice, snow and salt tend to build up and stay in these areas the longest.
Inspect headlights and brake lights
It's vital to have fully functioning headlights and brake lights when dealing with thick winter fog or heavy snow.
"It's going to help your own visibility while driving, but also make sure other drivers are able to see you," Gliss said.
Gliss added that he notices plastic headlight covers with a haze on them or looking discolored. This can have a negative effect on the brightness of the headlights.
Plastic headlight lens repair kits can be found at various retailers if you choose not to have it serviced by a professional.
For more safety and preparedness tips, visit AccuWeather.com/Ready.
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