Many car owners are under the impression that it’s critical to their safety during winter months to winterize their vehicles. Years ago, that may have been the case, but today’s cars are designed for all types of weather. Unless you live in Alaska, winterizing your car is not only a waste of time – it’s also a waste of money.
Most of the items on a “winterizing your car” list are tasks that you should be doing on a regular basis anyway. They’re part of routine auto maintenance procedures. The chances are good that if you’re getting your car regularly serviced during the year, these items have already been checked and taken care of by your technician. Unless you’re traveling in the coldest parts of the country, your car should be ready for the winter by the time it arrives.
Many auto technicians recommend that you replace your windshield wipers and refill the wiper fluid before the snow hits. We can all agree that visibility is critical in the winter. But these are basic tasks that your auto technician probably checked the last time your car was in the shop. Filling fluids is also a regular part of a standard oil change service. If you suspect your wipers need to be replaced, you can probably handle that yourself, but your technician can also do it for you.
Most auto manufacturers recommend specific types and weights of oil that will work in both summer and winter months. Do you need to worry about changing the oil for the winter? Probably not if you’re getting your vehicle serviced regularly. Your technician is already on it. This goes for all the other fluids in your vehicle, including coolant and antifreeze.
Some automotive experts recommend switching to winter tires during the winter months. This is one activity that might be useful if you’re afraid of getting stuck when it snows or ices up. Modern all-weather tires have acceptable traction to grip in most weather conditions, making a switch to winter tires unnecessary for all but the most timid drivers. Switching to winter tires may have merit if you live in a part of the country that gets heavy snowfalls.
Tire pressure fluctuates with colder temperatures. Make sure your tires are inflated to the correct pressure, whether you’re running snow tires or all-weather tires. Checking the air pressure in your tires is simple and a tire gauge is inexpensive.
But again, it’s likely that your auto technician did that the last time you had any maintenance done on your vehicle.
If you would like to be better prepared for winter driving, here are a few things that are worth the time and effort.
Pack a survival kit.
Good ice scrapers are a must during winter months. Make sure you have at least one in the car, maybe more. Jumper cables, blankets, flashlights and batteries, snacks, and roadside flares may also be useful if you find yourself in trouble during the dark days of winter.
Learn winter driving skills.
If you’re not a good winter driver, take a winter driving class before the snow hits. You’ll learn things like how to stop on icy surfaces, what to do if you go into a skid, and how much distance to allow for braking on icy roads.
Be prepared to save yourself.
If you’re caught in a winter storm, it’s going to be up to you to protect yourself until help arrives. If you get stuck, stay in your car. Do not leave the car because you may not be able to find it again in low visibility. Turn on the hazards (four Way Flashers) or leave your dome light on to attract the attention of passing motorists. Don’t run the engine more than necessary to stay warm. Turn it on, warm up, then turn it off again to conserve gas and avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
The annual car winterizing ritual isn’t as necessary as it was 30 years ago. But you should always be prepared. Make sure you’re ready for winter by taking steps to keep yourself safe. Let us worry about the rest!