Winter motoring presents a different set of challenges than those faced during the warmer summer months. You need to take a proactive approach to be sure your vehicle’s ready for the harshest conditions that winter has to offer.
From an abundance of snow to sub-zero temperatures, driving during winter can quickly take its toll on any vehicle. But by following a simple checklist of vehicle maintenance procedures, and having some vital emergency supplies on hand, you can make your winter driving experience stress free.
Inspect Your Tires
Your tires are the most important factor in how well your vehicle will be able to traverse snow-covered roads. The more tread depth you have remaining, the greater the level of traction available for accelerating, steering, and braking.
While still legal, a tire’s ability to effectively deal with snow quickly diminishes once less than 5/32″ of tread remains. If you live in an area that sees considerable snowfall each winter, it’s important to make sure your tires have sufficient tread depth, so consider replacing them if they’re nearing their end of life.
It can also be a good idea to get a set of winter tires, which are specifically designed to provide better traction in low temperatures. They also feature a tread design that’s more effective at navigating snow.
Cold temperatures can reduce the amount of air pressure in your tires at a rate of approximately 1 psi per every 10°F. It’s important to check your tire pressures regularly and inflate as necessary.
Check Your Spare
A flat tire can occur at any time and they’re common during winter since obstacles are usually covered by snow which can make them difficult to avoid.
Your spare should be in good condition and inflated to the correct pressure, so it’s ready to go when you need it.
Check Your Coolant
Water-cooled engines require antifreeze to regulate engine temperatures and prevent overheating. Antifreeze lowers the temperature at which water freezes.
If your antifreeze levels are running low or you aren’t sure on the ratio of antifreeze within your vehicle’s cooling system, make sure to either top it off with the correct solution or replace it entirely.
Check Your Battery
Car batteries are high capacity and heavy-duty in order to produce a large amount of electrical current when a vehicle is first started.
Batteries are also placed under an increased amount of strain the lower the temperature falls – which means that if your battery is nearing the end of its life, a cold winter could finish it off and leave you stranded.
Car batteries are usually good for five years. If you can’t remember when it was last replaced, we suggest having a load test performed to check its current condition.
Check Your Lighting
Winter brings with it reduced amounts of daylight compared to summer, which results in a greater reliance on your vehicle’s lights.
This is the time to check every exterior light on your vehicle to make sure it’s operational. This includes not only your headlights and tail lights but turn signals and fog lamps too.
Any bulb that has blown should be replaced ASAP.
Check Your Washer Fluid & Wiper Blades
Visibility can be significantly reduced during winter, coupled with road spray from rain and melted snow, you have a windshield that requires constant cleaning.
For this reason, it’s good practice to regularly top off your washer fluid reservoir with a solution that can withstand sub-zero temperatures.
In addition, we recommend replacing your wiper blades if necessary as freezing temperatures can damage the rubber parts and make them ineffective at clearing water.
Gather an Emergency Kit
Experiencing a breakdown is unwelcome at any time of the year, but being stranded at the side of the road in the bitter cold can be unpleasant at best, and potentially even dangerous. Having the right equipment available inside your vehicle will make all the difference so gather a list of essentials and make sure they’re always on hand.
Key items include:
- Bottled water
- Non-perishable food
- First aid kit
- High visibility jackets
- Spare bulbs
- Reflective hazard signs
- Snow chains
- Charging capability for electronics
Driving during winter doesn’t have to be difficult or stressful. Effective planning and preparation are the key to overcoming any challenge that winter may send your way.
Good vehicle maintenance will reduce the likelihood of a breakdown while keeping your vehicle stocked with emergency supplies will ensure that you and your passengers will be comfortable in the event that you need to wait for assistance.