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Money Tips: Winterizing Your Car

Money Tips: Winterizing Your Car By Cyndi Cohen
Published December 2, 2011
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It’s early morning, in the dead of winter -- dreary, cold, and snowy.  You don’t feel like getting out of your warm bed to go to work and neither does your car!  However, if you take the time to prepare your vehicle for the cold months, you and your car will better survive the wintertime blues.  These 5 vehicle winterization tips will provide some valuable insight on making it through the winter, keeping your car reliable, and staying safe on the road during hazardous conditions.

  1. ­Keep Up with General Maintenance

It is important to maintain your vehicle throughout the year so that once winter arrives, it will be in good condition and you will be aware of any problem areas.  Check that all fluids are at the appropriate levels.  This includes scheduling regular oil changes, ensuring that you are using the proper grade and viscosity of oil for your vehicle.  It is also important to routinely check brakes and brake pads as well as belts and hoses which can deteriorate more quickly during cold weather.

  1. Tires 101

First, figure out what type of tires you will need for the winter where you live.  If you are likely to see snow, sleet, and freezing rain in your region, it may be a good idea to opt for snow tires or all-season tires at the very least.  Snow tires will give you more traction when road conditions are snow-covered.  Be sure to check your tire pressure – the owner's manual should list the suggested pounds per square inch.  It’s important to have the right amount of air to ensure proper traction on the road and decrease the chances of losing control of your vehicle.

  1. Maintain a De-Icing System

If you have to contend with the deep freeze this winter, it is a good idea to make sure your vehicle is equipped to defrost, for the sake of performance and visibility.  Do a pre-winter check of your heater, air conditioner and windshield defrosters.  Also inspect your windshield wipers and wiper fluid levels.  Windshield wipers typically last about 12 months while wiper fluid mixed with a de-icer is recommended for your fluid reservoir.  Check the antifreeze mixture in your car’s radiator which should consist of half water and half antifreeze – most automotive stores carry this pre-mixed and sell antifreeze testers as well. Last but not least, have a sturdy ice scraper with a brush and de-icing glycerine for frozen locks, windshields, and door handles.

  1. Check Your Starter System

The last place that anyone wants to be stranded is in the middle of a snow or ice storm so make sure your vehicle’s systems are working optimally to cope with, or even avoid, this situation.  This includes having your battery tested by a certified auto mechanic if it is older than 3 years, and cleaning any corrosion that may be present.  Cold weather can significantly affect a battery’s performance so it should be in tip-top shape going into the wintertime.  It is also a good idea to check your car’s starter and spark plugs which can become compromised when exposed to the elements. 

  1. Have an Emergency Kit

Every driver’s trunk should contain a trusty emergency kit, especially during the cold winter months.  Should you get stuck on the roadside in poor conditions, having the following items safely stowed away may just be your salvation:

  • A reliable roadside assistance plan (such as AAA)
  • Heavy blanket
  • Warm clothing including hat and gloves
  • Flares
  • Snow shovel & salt
  • Snow boots
  • Flashlight
  • First-aid kit
  • Packaged food & bottled water
  • Small set of tools (for tire-changing)
  • Washer fluid

Don’t let old man winter get the best of you and your vehicle this season.  Follow these foolproof tips and, before you know it, the snow will be melting and the spring flowers will be blooming.  Here’s to you (and your car) staying warm and safe until then!

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