The leaves are turning, days are getting shorter, and temperatures are starting to drop. We all know that means holidays, Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, and ski season… but what does it mean for your car? Winter weather can have a huge impact on your car’s condition, as well as its (and your) safety on the road. Here’s our list of things to check to make sure you and your car are prepared for the winter season.
This is a good time to check all things tires: make sure they’re inflated to the correct pressure, and that they don’t have excessive wear—they need plenty of tread to be safe on wet or icy roads. If you live in a particularly snowy or icy area, you may even want to swap out your summer tires for winter tires.
Cold mornings make your battery work harder to start your car—and the last thing you want is to turn the key and find out it doesn’t have enough power to start your car. If you have a multimeter, you can use that to make sure your battery is still going strong, or you can stop by your local auto parts store—most of them will do a quick, complimentary test for you. (And if it turns out all is not well with your battery, you’re in the perfect place to get a new one!)
Take a look at your oil level, brake fluid, coolant, windshield washer fluid, and power steering fluid. Top them up as needed.
Wipers wear out faster than you might think—depending on your climate, you may want to replace them as often as every 6-12 months. Testing them out the next time you wash your car is a good way to see if they’re clearing your windshield flawlessly, or if they’re doing it unevenly and leaving streaks that could impair your visibility.
In areas with a lot of snow and ice, installing winter wipers is a good idea for the colder months—they’re designed to withstand elements and perform better in harsh conditions than standard wipers.
5. Belts and hoses
It’s a good idea to inspect your belts and hoses going into winter, especially if your car is older. You’ll want to check the connections, making sure the clamps fastening your hoses are secure, and that the hoses themselves are pliable and not showing discoloration or signs of drying out or cracking.
It’s also important to check your belts—for signs of cracking, and also wear. You’ll want to pinch them and make sure they’re supple, and be on the lookout for fraying, splitting, or any parts that are brittle. If you see any of those things, get it replaced!
Aside from checking on your car itself, please consider other cold weather preparedness: keep a blanket, safety flares, water, and an ice scraper—as well as a first aid kit—in your trunk. Warm socks, mittens or gloves, a hat are also a good idea; they’ll help you stay warm if you end up stranded.