Autumn is a time when we prepare for the cold winter to come. To keep yourself safe and comfortable on the road this winter, take some time to make sure your car, truck or SUV is ready for the challenges it will face in the months ahead.
With more than 200 grades of advanced high-strength steel (AHSS) available to automakers, they can use the right grade in the right application for exceptional occupant protection and durability, but continued maintenance is still critical.
What maintenance have you been putting off? Are your brakes starting to squeal every now and then? Do you have a taillight out, or maybe your headlight covers are scratched or foggy enough to notice a difference at night? Do you need new tires, “one of these days?”
Now is the time to handle deferred maintenance, before you find yourself on the side of a snowy road, wishing you’d taken care of it earlier.
You may not even know what you’ve been putting off longer than you should, so check your owner’s manual for recommended service intervals. You may be conscientious about your oil changes, but what about items such as air filters, oxygen sensors, power steering fluid and other, longer-interval maintenance requirements?
As the grades of AHSS have evolved over the decades, it is being used more frequently in chassis and suspension applications, aiding in vehicle handling capabilities. When was the last time you had your suspension and alignment checked? If possible, combine it with a tire safety check and rotation. During winter months, all of these contribute to critical handling capabilities.
Make sure your windshield washer reservoir is full, so you don’t find yourself peering out a frozen windshield during a surprise storm.
As long as you’re thinking about your windshield, it’s probably been a while since you replaced your wiper blades, which are often recommended to replace every six months. Make sure you get the correct ones for your vehicle; not all wiper blades are sized and shaped the same.
Is your battery ready for winter? Check your owner’s manual for maintenance instructions, especially if it’s more than five years old. Temperature impacts how well batteries work, and a battery that functioned perfectly all summer long can fail suddenly in cold weather.
If you don’t already, start getting in the habit of filling up your gas tank at half-full or earlier rather than when it nears empty. While running out of gas is a serious inconvenience in nice weather, it can be much more dangerous in cold winter months.
Always Be Prepared
Make sure you have a winter emergency kit in the car. Keep it in the passenger compartment in case your trunk becomes frozen or jammed. Think about what you’d need to be safe and comfortable if you got stuck for eight hours with no assistance available, and pack accordingly. Some recommendations include:
- Shovel – Folding camping shovels work well
- Gloves, hats, socks and other practical warm clothing
- Flashlight with batteries
- Battery-powered phone charger with correct cables
- Water and snacks
- First aid kit
- Flares and/or emergency signal lights
- Blankets and/or sleeping bags
- Booster cables
- Rope or chain for towing
- Salt, sand or cat litter to provide traction
As always, your dealership or local certified car care professional can help you make sure your vehicle is ready to handle the challenges of winter travel.
Tell us in the comments below – how do you prepare your car for winter driving?