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Easy Maintenance to Keep Your Car Running Safely this Winter

With the temperature dropping and the first on-and-off snow flurries of Winter starting to hit Detroit, now’s the perfect time to start preparing your car for the Winter if you haven’t already. There are a handful of easy, inexpensive at-home maintenance checks and fixes pretty much anyone can do from home, regardless of their automotive knowledge, that can get your vehicle ready for cold weather. This article will look cover the simplest, yet most important, maintenance items you should cover in your car before the cold and ice really hit to keep your car safe and running smoothly in even the worst weather.

Batteries, Blades and Bulbs

No matter what conditions you’re driving in, visibility is one of the biggest safety factors you must consider while driving. In the Winter things get especially tricky, as lane dividers and signs can be covered in snow, snow and sleet can cut down your sight line, and the sun sets much earlier, leaving you with more nighttime driving. With that being said, changing your bulbs and wiper blades is a cheap way to ensure you get the best visibility on the roads.

When checking your car’s lights, it’s not just about whether or not they’re burnt out. Make sure they work and are bright, but also check that they’re properly aligned. This is really easy to see if you pull up to a wall or garage door- simply make sure both lights are level and shining forward enough for you to see the road ahead. Make sure to also check that the lights haven’t faded/discolored from exposure to the elements or gotten cloudy. If they have, there are plenty of affordable products that can help remove fogginess and discoloration and help to polish and protect your lights for maximum visibility. If they’re really looking bad, your local parts store should have a selection of new or pre-owned light covers and housings at low cost, and they’re not too difficult to change.

When it comes to your wiper blades, the biggest factor in keeping them working right is making sure you keep them new. Wiper blades come in a wide range of styles and qualities, and the more expensive ones do tend to perform better than the bargain brands, however even the top-of-the-line wiper blades only last effectively for about 6 months of use- less if you live in areas with lots of rain or snow and use your wipers more frequently. You may be able to prolong your wiper blade life a tad by cleaning the blades with window cleaner and paper towel periodically, as well as leaving the wiper arms in an upright position in cold weather so the blades don’t freeze to the windshield, but you’re still not going to want to push it past 6 to 7 months with the same wiper blades.

Probably the most important thing in this section, and maybe even in this entire article, is checking your car’s battery. Sure, jumping your car in your driveway is a manageable pain to handle before work over Summer, but that same weak battery you’ve been using could leave you stranded without a running car or working heat in the cold this Winter. In fact, according to Consumer’s Report, a battery will only put out about half the cranking power at zero degrees than it would at 80 degrees; That could mean the weak or touchy battery you tolerated in the Summer may end up dying on you once the temperatures really drop. If you don’t have the tools and knowledge to test your battery at home, you can bring it in to an auto parts or service shop to have it tested. The good news is, if the battery does need to be replaced before Winter, you’re already at the right place to recycle your old core and get a new battery installed! While you’re there, consider also double checking your climate control system works the way you want it to- a heater doesn’t do you much good in the snow and ice if it only blows cold air!

Keeping Your Fluids in Check

After making sure your lights all work, your wiper blades are ready for the snow, your hot air is working and checking on your battery, it’s time to maintain and top off your fluids. There are a few key things you want to make sure you have in stock for the cold weather, and overall you want to keep all your fluid reservoirs full as the temperature drops. Most commonly talked about regarding your gas tank and fuel lines, having any fluid reservoir sit below halfway full in the Winter could be dangerous for your car. The excess air space can allow for ice crystals to form in your lines, causing potentially harmful blockages or engine grinding in the worst case and inaccurate fuel and fluid readings in the best-case scenario. With that being said, make sure to regularly check the levels of your gas, oil, wiper fluid, coolant and antifreeze. The good news is, when you go in to get your oil changed before Winter, most places will top off your fluids with the oil change.

Between oil changes, however, you want to frequently check all those fluid levels and replenish them when necessary. As stated above, try not to let your gas tank sit below a half or quarter-tank in the cold weather, and check your engine oil and wiper fluids every other time you fill up on gas. If you find you need to add a little oil, make sure you use the highest quality oil recommended by your vehicle’s manufacturer to ensure optimal engine performance. If you need to top off your wiper fluid, which you most likely will since you tend to need to clean your windshield more in the Winter’s slush, opt for a quality Winter wiper fluid formula. These special blends not only help keep the snow and slush from sticking to your windshield, but they also help to prevent ice and windshield freezing when the weather gets really bad or your car sits out in the snow and won’t freeze and crack your reservoir if the temperatures really drop.

Tires and Mechanical Parts

As far as mechanical parts go, pop the hood and check out any belts and lines you can see or easily access. If they look worn out, split, cracked, etc. stop by an auto parts shop and get them replaced sooner rather than later. Especially with Winter’s temperature fluctuations causing things to expand and contract, you don’t want a blown-out gasket or a torn belt when you’re on a snowy highway.

Right up there with your battery, your tires may be the single most important factor in keeping you and your passengers safe on slippery roads this Winter. First and foremost, you’re going to want to check your tire’s tread. There are cheap and easy-to-use tools you can pick up to do this, or if you’re really on a budget, a quick search online should show you how to check your tread with a penny. Besides making sure your tires aren’t too run down, you also want to check their inflation. This is something you may want to consider checking every other time you fill up your gas tank, especially when the temperature outside drops. Studies suggest that your tires lose one pound per square inch (psi) for every 10 degrees the temperature drops. Improperly inflated tires not only run the risk of blowing out while driving, but they also actually have less grip on the road as the carefully-created treads may expand or contract out of place do to over or under filling. Inflating your tires to the manufacturer’s recommended psi will also get you the best possible gas mileage for your car, saving you money in the end!

Final Thoughts

In all, there are plenty of minor things you can easily check from home to ensure that your car is ready for the Winter weather. Still, it’s always better to be safe rather than sorry, so the last recommendation on this list, although it isn’t just limited to Winter, is to keep an emergency kit in your car. Obviously getting stranded somewhere is more dangerous in the freezing Winter weather, but you never know when and where your car might break down and leave you alone in the middle of nowhere.

Your emergency kit should have a blanket (although a couple would be best), a large jug or couple bottles of water, a stash of non-perishable food or snacks, and some basic tools and equipment. First, double check that your car has an included jack stand and spare tire, and double check that both are in useable, working condition. It’s also a great idea to have either jumper cables in case another traveler comes along, or a battery jump-starter so you can get your car running alone if need be. You’ll also want a flashlight or two for yourself, and some sort of way to light up the exterior of your car, like road flares or portable hazard lights. Finally, make sure you have a phone charger you can use if you need to call for help from your car or a rest stop.

By checking over all these things covered in this article before Winter really gets here, you can drive without worrying whether your car will make it through the snow and ice or not. Worst case scenario, you now have an emergency kit in your car, so if the worst should happen, you’ll be warm, fed and simply waiting for help to arrive.

If you find during your pre-Winter inspection that you’re in need of new tires, door or windshield glass, a battery or any other parts to tune your car up for Winter, make sure you stop by Holbrook Auto Parts for the best prices in Detroit for your automotive needs. We offer free battery testing, a massive selection of auto glass, tires, wheels and batteries and battery treatments, wiper blades and auto fluids to keep you On the Move! Stop by one of our convenient locations and get your car ready for Winter for less!

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1 thought on “Easy Maintenance to Keep Your Car Running Safely this Winter

  1. I like the idea of switching out your wipers before winter. I would think that keeping as much visibility as possible would be good. I should consider getting ing my windshield replaced as well since it has a bunch of cracks that combined with the snow, could make it pretty hard to see.

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