October is Fall Car Care Month. Summer heat can take a toll on your vehicle, and fall is the perfect time to make sure your ride is ready to handle the upcoming weather changes and wintery driving conditions. Keep reading to learn how to inspect and prepare your car for winter, what to pack in your car emergency kit, and how to drive safely in winter weather.
1. Get a maintenance check
Whether you do it yourself or go to a professional mechanic, it’s smart to have your car inspected and repaired before winter sets in. The Car Care Council recommends inspecting the following:
Tires & Brakes
Cold weather can cause tire pressure to drop, so make sure your tires are properly filled according to the instructions in your owner’s manual. The Car Care Council recommends checking tire pressure weekly during the winter! Additionally, worn treads could cause you to lose traction when driving on wet leaves or icy roadways. If you notice uneven wear, balding, or bulges, a tire alignment or new tires may be in order.
Fortunately, getting your tires fixed doesn’t have to result in an empty wallet. Discount Tire and many local auto shops offer flat tire repairs for free. You might be able to save some cash with free services instead of buying brand new tires.
Your brakes are one of you’re vehicle’s most important safety features, and it’s smart to get an entire braking system check at least once a year. You could also stay on top of your brakes by asking to have your brake rotors, linings, and drums checked out whenever you get an oil change.
Heaters, Wipers & Lights
The last thing you want on a cold morning when you need to defrost your windows is to discover only cold air is coming out of the vents. Make sure heaters and defrosters are in good working order so you can stay warm and cozy all winter long.
You should replace windshield wiper blades about every six to 12 months. If you notice squeaking or vibrating noises, streaking, or leftover wet spots while using your wipers, it’s probably time to replace them to improve visibility ahead of wet, wintery weather. You could even switch your washer fluid to a cold-weather version.
Working lights are essential to keep you, other drivers, and pedestrians safe. Make sure all interior and exterior lights are bright, and that your headlights are properly aimed – refer to your owner’s manual for the correct location.
Gas, Oil & Filters
Is it time for an oil change? Depending on your vehicle, you should get an oil change every 7,500-15,000 miles. If it gets cold where you live, you might want to switch to a winter weight oil that’s specially designed to perform in colder temperatures.
Keep your gas tank at least half full in cold weather. This can prevent freezing and moisture from forming in the gas line.
Dirty air, fuel, and transmission filters can affect your car’s performance and fuel economy, so check them out and replace them as necessary.
Charging, Cooling & Exhaust Systems
Summer heat is hard on car batteries, and cold weather isn’t any gentler. Check your battery health and look for signs of corrosion – a surefire sign it’s time for a battery replacement!
You should also clean, flush, and add new antifreeze to your cooling system before it gets too cold. Refer to your owner’s manual to learn how often you should flush out your engine’s cooling system.
Finally, avoid a dangerous carbon monoxide leak by having your exhaust system checked. This is especially important for safe driving during wintertime when you’re windows are closed.
2. Pack a winter weather car emergency kit
You never know what trouble you might run into on the road, and an emergency kit in your car packed with essentials can help keep you safe. It’s smart to winter-ify your emergency kit to be prepared for cold weather encounters. Keep these items handy:
- Ice scraper and snow brush (make sure they’re accessible!)
- Jumper cables or a portable battery charger
- Extra windshield washer fluid (preferably a de-icer)
- Kitty litter (to improve traction if you get stuck on the side of the road)
- Warm gloves
- Extra clothes
- Bottled water
- Nonperishable food
- First aid kit
3. Practice safe driving in winter weather
If you’re driving in wintery weather conditions, it’s important to know how they could affect your car’s performance and your ability to drive safely. For instance, do you know the proper following distance when driving on icy or snowy roads? How about which way you should turn if your car starts to skid on black ice? What should you do if you get stranded on the side of the road in a winter storm?
For more safe winter driving tips, check out the Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s winter weather driving guide.
4. Be prepared for the unexpected
What would you do if you found yourself stranded in the cold and out of gas or stuck on the side of the road in a snowbank? An emergency roadside assistance plan is a great way to be prepared, especially in winter weather. At Direct Auto, our roadside assistance program includes benefits for things like 24/7 emergency towing, fluid and fuel delivery, battery jumpstarts, and more to help you get back on the road.