A bit of prep now can spare you from costly car repairs or, worse, being injured or stranded on the roads when temperatures drop. “Driving in severe winter weather can be frightening and dangerous,” says Erin Stepp, public relations manager of the motoring organization AAA. “It’s important for drivers to plan ahead.” Ready your vehicle for winter with this checklist.
Replace worn wiper blades and refill your windshield washer fluid with an anti-freezing formula. Keep your ice scraper and snow brush at the ready.
Cold weather can worsen existing engine problems. If you’ve been ignoring those labored starts, stall-outs, knocks or other noises, face the music now with a trip to your mechanic.
Make sure your heater and defroster are in good working order. In newer cars, check and replace cabin air filters (see your owner’s manual for the location and recommended replacement schedule).
Have your battery and car’s charging systems professionally tested before bad weather strikes. When the outdoor temp hits 32°F, your battery loses about 35 percent of its strength and continues to drop proportionately with the temperature, according to AAA’s Automotive Research Center. That means starting your engine on a cold day can require twice as much current as needed in milder conditions.
Have your tires inspected for tread depth, uneven wear, and cuts and nicks in the sidewall. Plus, get into the habit of checking tire pressure monthly during cold weather, suggests Stepp. If you live in a snowy or icy climate, consider purchasing a set of snow tires.
Stock your car with winter-weather provisions, including blankets, gloves, socks, a small shovel, flashlight, road flares, nonperishable snack items, and sand or kitty litter for improving traction in slippery areas.