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How to Prepare Your Car for Winter Driving

Getting Your Car Ready For Winter

Winter’s just around the corner and lots of animals are stuffing their faces and getting ready to hunker down until spring.  Some animals have all the luck (this includes those of you in temperate San Diego).  Since (most of) us humans just have to tough out the cold, we should do some winter preparations of our own.  On the top of the list is making sure our cars are ready to handle the inclement weather winter often brings.  Follow this checklist and you’ll coast through the cold.

Update Oil Changes

In cold weather oil tends to thicken.  This, compounded by dirty oil, means that the engine might not be properly lubricated.  So in the winter it’s especially important to make sure oil is clean.  You may want to talk to a mechanic about switching to oil that holds up better in the cold, like 5W30, if you’ll regularly be driving at temperatures of freezing or below.

Ensure Visibility

When caught in a snowstorm maintaining visibility is critical, so make sure the windshield wipers and defroster work before venturing out.  Also, even if you’re running late, scrape all the frost/snow from your windows – not just a little patch.

Top off Fluids

Driving with low fluid levels is never a good thing, but in the winter it’s even more important to avoid because driving conditions can be more dangerous.  Make sure brake, windshield, and power steering fluids are at safe levels, as well as antifreeze.

Test the Battery

Cold temperatures are hard on the battery.  The chemicals inside move more slowly, so if your battery is already weak the winter may be the nail in the coffin.  Qualified mechanics can run some quick diagnostic tests to make sure yours is in tip-top shape.

Check the Tires

Cold weather can mean icy roads, so make sure you have enough tread to keep on track.  Consider switching to specific winter tires if your winters are harsh.  It’s also crucial to check tire pressure.  Proper pressure needs to be maintained for optimal traction in slippery conditions and cold weather causes pressure to drop, so be sure to check them regularly.

Wash and Wax

Before it gets too chilly give your car a final cleaning and have it waxed to help prevent corrosion caused by salt on the roads.

Make a Winter Survival Kit

The kit should include mittens, hat, and blanket to keep warm if you get stranded.  Keep it somewhere in the car you have easy access to, preferably not in the trunk.  A scraper to fight visual impairment, as well as a shovel and gravel in case your car gets stuck are also musts.  Some water bottles and nonperishable snacks are good too.  Take extra care to drive with your cell phone fully charged and have some numbers of roadside assistance providers just in case you need help.  Good Luck and Stay Warm!


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