How to winterize your vehicle
Snow tires should be used in snow, sleet, and ice. Many manufacturers recommend changing all four tires to snow tires each winter. Replacing only two tires can cause unequal traction, which can be dangerous and lead to loss of control. All-season tires can be used in winter, but are not as effective as snow tires. Premium snow tires perform better in the snow than the best all-season tires, which tend to stiffen in cold weather and don’t provide enough traction for snowy road conditions. Traction is important when driving in all weather conditions. Your tires need to grip the road for braking, steering, and overall vehicle stability.
Be sure to use the proper oil for colder weather conditions. When the weather gets below freezing, thinner oil usually is needed. Refer to your owner’s manual or manufacturer to determine proper oil treatment for your vehicle.
Before the cold weather begins, make sure you are using coolant with ethylene glycol. Using a coolant will protect your engine from corrosion and prevent overheating. Check your owner’s manual or ask a repair specialist for the proper coolant-to-water ratio for your vehicle type.
Preventing rust from road salt
Salt can cause the body and undercarriage of your vehicle to rust. Before the snow begins to fall, it is important to wash your vehicle thoroughly, wax it, and apply a wax sealant. By sealing the undercarriage, you can avoid rust and corrosion in the brake and fuel lines. A professional can do this, or you can do it yourself with products that are available at your local hardware store. Washing your vehicle regularly is the best protection against damage caused by road salt.
While it is important to have your vehicle washed and waxed regularly in the winter months, make sure your vehicle is dried completely to avoid freezing. If a lock on your car door freezes, the best way to defrost it is by using a de-icer. Warm water can be used, but this may not be an available option. Be careful not to force a frozen lock — doing so may result in a broken key. Keep tubes of de-icer in your home, garage, and desk at work so you always have it handy in case your locks freeze.
Vehicle equipment working properly
Make sure your heater and defroster are in good working condition before cold weather sets in. Test your windshield wipers and blades to be sure they are working properly.
Vehicle emergency kit
No matter what season it is, you should have an emergency kit in the trunk of your vehicle. Include the following items in your vehicle emergency kit:
- Flashlight and batteries
- Spare tire and tools needed to change it out
- Hat, gloves, and wool socks for you and your family
- Hand and feet warmers
- All fluids necessary for your vehicle — oil, brake fluid, automatic transmission fluid, power-steering fluid, antifreeze, and water
- Funnel and rags
- Jumper cables
- Fire extinguisher
- Ice scraper
By winterizing your vehicle, you will be prepared for harsh weather and ensure safe travels.