As the temperature drops and the skies turn gray, natures’ animals prepare for the great hibernation that is winter. Squirrels stockpile nuts, bears fatten themselves up, birds fly south, and us humans head to the store and buy a new winter coat. For those of us with opposable thumbs, we also have to prepare other things for winter that are distinctly human…like our automobiles.
Owning a car, which most of us do, comes with the responsibility of regular maintenance and upkeep and for those of us living in colder climates, we have the added task of prepping our automobiles for winter. So as the cold front approaches, what do you need to do to get your car ready for the change of season?
Getting your car mechanically ready for the cold:
- Fluids: Fluids are the life blood of your vehicle and as the temperature drops, the fluids in our vehicle respond. Frozen or broken down fluids are generally not good for a car. It’s critical to ensure that the fluids we’re using in our car can stand up to the freezing temperatures of winter. Specifically:
- Engine Coolant/Anti-Freeze: A coolant system flush and new radiator fluid is a good idea going into winter, and make sure you have anti-freeze in your radiator that’s rated for sub zero temperatures.
- Engine Oil: Most engine oil these days are rated for two temperature ranges (10W 30 for example). The numbers signify the weight or viscosity of the oil. The more viscous the oil, the more easily it flows through the engine. With engine oil, lower numbers means the oil flows more easily. In winter you want a lower weight oil so the cold doesn’t thicken the oil and impede the flow through the engine. Be sure you have some 10W in your oil weight. Did you know that the “w” in 10w30 stands for winter? It does.
- Transmission Fluid: Typically, the transmission fluid in your vehicle is rated for the cold but heading into winter is a good time to have a mechanic check the fluid, flush it out and replace it if needed.
- Windshield Wiper Fluid: While it’s not critical to the operation of your vehicle, wiper fluid if not rated for the cold can freeze up and cause damage to the wiper fluid reservoir.
- Tires: The obvious item to prep for winter is your tires. Have your tires inspected by a professional mechanic to ensure that there is sufficient tread to get you through the snowy days. If your area sees a lot of snow, you may want to consider putting on tires with snow specific tread. These tires have a more aggressive tread pattern and will reduce your gas mileage so consider the trade off. Here are some tips from the pros on winter tires.
- Heater: None of us want to be stuck in the dead of winter with no heater in the car. Have your mechanic check your heater operation and make sure you’re ready for the chill.
Preparing to drive and store your car in the cold:
Once your vehicle is mechanically ready for the cold weather, it’s time to prep yourself as a driver for the cold days ahead. Here are some things you can do to make your winter driving life easier.
- Keep an emergency kit in the car: You never know when your car may break down or get stuck in the snow leaving you stranded in the cold. Act like a boy scout and be prepared with a winter emergency car kit with items like flares, a camping shovel for digging out of snow, and some cold weather gear.
- Get an Ice scraper/Snow brush: Duh. I know, it’s obvious to have one but it’s also good to invest in a good quality scraper.
- Get a car cover: If you’re not into scraping and brushing snow off the car in the morning, a car cover could make your life more enjoyable. A couple of minutes to put a cover on your car in the evening can save you several minutes of scraping ice and brushing snow in the morning. And who wants to do that on a cold winter morning when you’re late for work? You can purchase a car cover online that is made specifically for your car.
Here’s a tip: Always make sure that all of the snow is completely removed from your vehicle before driving. I know, you just want to get to work, but when you leave snow on your car, it blows off while you drive blinding drivers in cars behind you in a snow drift, which is unsafe, and not too friendly.
As winter approaches, do these few things to get you and your car ready for the cold and it’s going to make your life a whole lot easier. At Sinclair, we’re always preparing for the future and the unforeseen. We are Risk Management Specialists ready to handle whatever life brings your way.
Sinclair Risk& Financial Management