Originally published on 12/12/2017
Updated on 10/27/2023
As the temperature drops and snowflakes start to fall, car problems seem to crop up more frequently. Your battery might not perform at its best, your tires lose pressure, and wiper issues become more prevalent. These are just a few of the challenges that vehicle owners face during the winter months. The good news is that all of these problems are preventable with a little diligence in your car's winter maintenance routine.
To ensure your vehicle is prepared for winter, here are seven crucial items to include in your winter maintenance checklist:
- Car Battery: When your vehicle refuses to start on a frigid morning, you have two options: wait for a tow truck or take matters into your own hands with jumper cables and help from another driver. Either way, you'll need to breathe some life into your car's battery. Rather than relying on hope, get your battery checked, along with the charging system. If your battery is more than three years old, it's time to replace it.
- Tires: Did you know that your tires lose about one pound of pressure for every 9°F drop in temperature? Underinflated tires are a hazard in snowy conditions. Regularly check your tire pressure and ensure it matches the manufacturer's recommended PSI. Don't forget to have your wheel alignment inspected and corrected to prevent issues like poor fuel economy, a less comfortable driving experience, and uneven tire wear. Consider investing in winter tires for extra traction, improved braking, and handling in extreme weather conditions.
- Coolant: Checking your coolant or antifreeze level is crucial for winter maintenance. Cold temperatures cause fluids to thicken, affecting your vehicle's functionality. Older cars generally need a coolant flush and refill every two years, while newer models may go up to five years. Consult your owner's manual for specific recommendations. If you're unsure or haven't been diligent about maintenance, get your coolant system flushed and refilled.
- Brakes: Maintaining your brake system is always a priority, but it's especially crucial during the winter. Snow-covered roads are challenging enough; don't add to the risk by neglecting your brakes. Remember that fluids thicken in cold weather, so add brake fluid to your checklist. Don't merely top it off – have a professional inspect your system. If you're hearing screeching or groaning sounds when you brake, you may need to replace your brake pads or other components.
- Oil: Oil is a vital fluid to include in your winter maintenance checklist. Clean oil is essential for proper winter operation. If you don't change your oil yourself, ensure the service provider uses the factory-recommended oil weight and viscosity. You may also want to consider switching to synthetic oil for better wear, longevity, and improved winter performance. Synthetic oil is less affected by temperature changes and can even enhance fuel economy slightly. Be aware that once you make the switch, you should stick with it. Have your mechanic inspect your oil filter to ensure it efficiently captures contaminants, maintaining a clean, healthy engine ready for winter.
- Wipers: Visibility is paramount for safe driving, and functional wiper blades are a must in rainy or snowy conditions. Wiper blades typically last about a year, but for winter, consider "beam blade" style wipers that lack external springs that can freeze up. Along with replacing your wipers, adopt preventive maintenance habits like popping your wipers up and turning them off when parking to prevent wiper motor burnout.
- Lights: Even seemingly small details matter on dark winter days. Ensure your headlights and other lights are clean and free of road grime. If your lenses are cloudy, consider refinishing services. Replace any non-working or dim bulbs to maximize your visibility.
Bonus Care Tips: Don't forget to check your vehicle's heater and defroster. Have an expert inspect your exhaust system to prevent exhaust fumes from entering the cabin. For added safety, maintain an emergency kit with extra gloves, boots, blankets, flares, a small shovel, flashlight, extra batteries, snacks, and a mobile phone charger.
The most crucial advice for vehicle owners is not to neglect regular, routine maintenance. Staying on top of maintenance can improve gas mileage and save you from costly headaches down the road.
Need Winter Maintenance for Your Car?
With so many elements to consider when preparing your vehicle for winter, simplify the process by scheduling seasonal maintenance. Addressing the basics promptly can help you avoid expensive problems later on.
If you have any questions or need assistance, feel free to call us at (816) 533-4247. At AAMCO Lee's Summit MO, we're dedicated to ensuring all our clients have an easy time scheduling their winter vehicle maintenance.
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