Car problems just seem to crop up during winter. Your battery may not work as well or your tires could lose pressure. Wiper problems are also more prevalent in cold weather.
These are just some of the issues vehicle owners face come winter time. But the good news is, all of these are preventable. You just have to be diligent about your car's winter maintenance.
To make sure your vehicle is winter ready, here are 7 things you should include in your winter maintenance service checklist.
1. Car Battery
As we've said before if your vehicle won't start in cold weather, you have two options. First is wait for someone to tow your vehicle so you can have it serviced.
The second is DIY using your own jumper cables, plus some help from another driver. Either way, you'll need to breathe some life into your car's battery.
Rather than hoping your battery won't die on you, get it checked and the charging system as well. You should also replace your battery if it's more than three years old.
Did you know that your tires lose pressure (a pound) for every 9F of temperature drop? You wouldn't want to drive through the snow with underinflated tires.
Aside from regularly checking your tire pressure and making sure it's reset to the manufacturer's recommended PSI, don't forget to have your wheel's alignment checked and fixed. This will help prevent issues such as poor fuel economy, less comfy driving experience, and uneven tire wear.
You should also consider investing in winter tires. These don't just provide extra traction. They also help with braking and handling in extreme weather conditions such as ice, snow, and slush.
Checking your coolant or antifreeze level is an important part of your vehicle's winter maintenance. When it gets cold, fluids have a tendency to thicken. This, of course, affects the proper functioning of your vehicle's parts.
The general rule (at least for older cars) is to flush and refill coolant every two years. For newer cars, it could be as long as five years. You can check your owner's manual to be sure.
Now, if you stick to your vehicle's service schedule, you can give this service a pass. But if you don't keep up with service intervals or if you're just not very confident about the coolant you're using, then you need to get it flushed and refilled.
Making sure your brake system is in tip-top condition should be a priority for any vehicle owner no matter the season. But if you've been lax about checking your brakes periodically, at least make an exception for winter time.
Driving on snow-covered roads is already tricky. Don't increase the risk by neglecting your brake system.
And remember what we said about fluids thickening in cold weather. Add brake fluid to the list of things you need to have checked. Don't just top it off though without having your system inspected by a professional.
It's possible you also need to replace your brake pads or other parts, especially if there are signs such as screeching or groaning sounds when you brake.
Again, since oil is a fluid, you'll need to include it in your winter maintenance checklist. Keeping good clean oil is always best for proper winter operation.
If you don't do oil changes by yourself, ask the one performing the service to use only the factory-recommended weight and viscosity of the oil. You may also consider switching permanently to a synthetic oil.
Yes, it is more costly. But it is a better product that can result in longer life, better wear, and better winter performance (because it is less affected by temperature changes). In some cases, it can even result in slightly better fuel economy.
Just take note that once you commit to this change you'll need to stick with it. You don't want to switch back and forth.
Have your mechanic look at your oil filter too. You want to make sure your oil filter can capture contaminants such as dust, metal, or carbon efficiently. This will ensure that your engine remains clean, healthy, and winter-ready.
No matter how smooth of a driver you are, you can't drive to the best of your abilities if visibility is an issue. That's why you'll need to have fully functional wiper blades in case of rain or snow.
Now, wiper blades usually last a year. For the winter months, you should consider "beam blade" style wipers because these don't have an external spring that freezes up.
Other than replacing your wipers, there are preventive maintenance tips you can do on your own. These include popping your wipers up and turning off the wipers when you park. The latter will ensure you don't burn out the wiper motor.
This may seem like a trivial detail but on dark wintry days, you'll appreciate every bit of lumen you can get out of your lights.
On your own, you can make sure all lenses are free of road grime. Consider refinishing services if your lenses are clouded. You should also replace all non-working or dim bulbs.
Bonus Care Tips
Apart from the ones mentioned above, don't forget about your vehicle's heater and defroster. You'll also need an expert to look at your exhaust system. Don't forget about the dangers of exhaust fumes inside your car's cabin.
For added safety, make sure your emergency kit is ready and stocked. Bring extras of everything - gloves, boots, blankets, and flares. Other things to keep handy are a small shovel, flashlight, extra batteries, snacks, and of course, your mobile phone charger.
One last thing. If there's one advice we can give to vehicle owners, it's don't neglect regular, routine maintenance.
We know we sound like a broken record at this point. But doing this can do wonders for your gas mileage and your wallet. Don't wait until minor problems become big headaches.
Do You Need Winter Maintenance for Your Car?
With so many things to take note of to get your vehicle winter-ready, make it easier for yourself by getting a scheduled seasonal maintenance. When you get the basics done as soon as possible, you can avoid costly problems later on.
If you have any questions, you can call us at (816) 533-4247. Here at AAMCO Lee's Summit, MO, we want to make sure all our clients have an easy time scheduling their winter vehicle maintenance.
We also have tons of articles on auto repair & maintenance to help your car, truck, or SUV working great all year round.