Winter is coming, as you can tell from the rapidly dropping temperatures and shortened days. Now is the time to prepare your vehicle, especially if you are planning on taking a long trip this Christmas. Texas weather is difficult to predict in the best of times, and winter is no exception. Thankfully, winterizing your car doesn’t have to interrupt your busy schedule or break the bank. With a little vehicle maintenance and an emergency car kit, you’ll be set to brave whatever the season throws your way!
How Do I Take Care of My Car in the Winter?
Frigid weather can produce a serious strain on your vehicle. That means it’s time to winterize your car. What does winterizing your vehicle mean? That’s just a fancy way of saying to prepare your car for winter conditions: frigid air, freezing condensation, and additional driving challenges.
The cold air takes a considerable toll on your battery life. Freezing temperatures prevent your battery’s internal chemical reactions from operating efficiently, thus the output is seriously reduced. Try to park your car indoors as often as possible during the winter. If you can’t, leave your car in a place protected from the wind. This will slow the gradually drain of power from your battery, though you may need to get it juiced up eventually.
Winterizing the car battery is just one step of preparing your vehicle. Be sure your car fluid levels (especially your antifreeze) are sufficient for winter travel. A slushy highway is not the place to discover your radiator is fresh out of coolant. It’s also essential that you check the treads on your tires. Bald tires can make winter travel feel more like skiing than driving.
Finally, make sure you keep an emergency car kit in the back seat or trunk for emergencies. You’ll want it in an easy-to-access location in case of an accident. We’ll go over what to include in your kit in a just little while.
Winter Car Service
Of course, your local vehicle maintenance service will be more than willing to prepare your car for the road ahead. A fresh oil change and a good drink of antifreeze will make sure your performance doesn’t sag during the cold weather. If you notice that your battery is struggling every time you turn the engine, consider asking your mechanic for a recharge (or purchasing a charger). You could save yourself a considerable amount of money that you would have spent on a new battery.
If you have concerns about the health of your tires, your mechanic will let you know whether or not it’s time to consider replacements. Be sure to mention if you’ve had any issues with your car heating system. Better a little maintenance now than a broken heater a month from now.
Above all, make sure your brakes are working properly. That means checking your brake fluid for color and texture. Dirty brake fluid can make rapid stops a challenge.
Winter Car Maintenance Checklist
- Battery Test and Recharge
- Fluid Check
- Brakes Check
- Heating System Check
- Tire Exam
- Spark Plug Exam
- Belt Check
- Hoses Check
What Happens if Car Maintenance is Neglected?
Many drivers put off basic maintenance until their vehicle shows clear signs of distress. This accelerates the degradation of the engine and other car parts, and is a categorically bad idea. If a driver waits long enough, they may start to experience some of the following problems.
- Reduced engine performance
- Increased difficulty steering/maneuvering
- Engine overheating
- Limited braking capabilities
- Battery failure
- Engine power loss
- Burning smells
- Fluid leaks
- and more
While car failure is typically a gradual process, disregard for basic maintenance requirements is the fastest way to destroy a once-healthy vehicle. In the winter time, harsh weather takes an even faster toll on car performance. If you have any doubts about the safety of your vehicle, it’s always best to talk to a qualified mechanic.
What Should I Keep in My Car for Winter?
The Department of Motor Vehicles may not be your favorite place to visit, but they do have a great list of items to include in your winter emergency car kit! They include:
- A Tire Gauge
- Road Flares
- Lug Wrench
- Car Jack
- Small Shovel
- Ice Scraper
- Sand or Cat Litter
- A Blanket (a must)
- and a Warm Hat.
To this list, we recommend you add jumper cables, a phone charger, and a signal booster (for rural trips). During emergencies, supplies are invaluable, but contacting 911 or roadside assistance generally takes precedence. If you can’t get a signal, try making a “HELP” sign (or packing one) from brightly colored materials.