Fall is officially here, and the cooler weather is slowly making it’s appearance here in Iowa. Even though it’s tough to think about, now is the perfect time to start prepping your vehicle for those harsh winter months. Cold temperatures, dirt, and road-salt residue can all cause problems. However, there are some simple checks and maintenance items you can do that will help your vehicle stay in top condition. Check out these tips below to help get your car through the winter while staying safe during tough road conditions.

Install Winter Wipers

These come equipped with rubber that keeps ice from collecting on the blades. Just be sure to remove them when spring rolls around. As winter wipers are heavier than regular ones, keeping them on all the time increases the risk of burning the motor out too soon.

Ice/Snow Removal

When it snows or rain is frozen on your windshield, never use your wipers to help get the snow or ice off.  It can damage your wipers very very quickly!  Sometimes if it is too cold and you use them as ice removal tools, they can crack that same day!  Use an ice scraper to break it up and allow your defrost to help speed the process along.

If you have to park your car outside over night after a snow storm, place your wipers in the raised position to avoid snow and ice sticking to your wipers and causing them to be stuck to the windshield.

Car Battery

Your vehicles batter is especially hit hard when the mercury plummets.  Cold temps reduce the cranking power.  Fun Fact: at about ZERO degrees F, a battery has about half the cranking power as one that is EIGHTY degrees F.

You can have your battery tested professionally at a service station, auto parts store, or a repair shop.  OR you can read up on your owner’s manual and learn how to test it yourself.

Windshield Washer Fluid

When driving in snow and ice, you may use a lot of washer fluid in an effort to keep your windshield clean. In order to properly winterize your car, maintain a nearly full washer fluid reservoir and consider keeping a spare bottle or two in the trunk.

It will also be beneficial to keep full when the car in front of you is spitting up all the salt and sand at your windshield.

Tire Pressure

With the cold winter air, it can cause your tires to quickly deflate and get to a level where they can pop.  It is important to keep the tire pressure at normal levels because it will also help you get along in the snow and ice a little better.

Tire Tread

Spinning out of control in the snow could cause your vehicle to end up in the other lane or even in the ditch!  Check the tread in your tires before it snows.  It is very dangerous for you and the other people on the road for your tires to be bald when driving around in the ice and snow.  Some actually have winter studded tires to help them move along in the winter conditions if your car doesn’t weigh very much.

Motor Oil

Cold weather can beat up your engine, too. Motor oil thickens when cold, making it harder for the engine to turn over. Check your owner’s manual for the manufacturer’s recommendation. Generally, you should be using multi-viscosity oil that has a “W” in the viscosity index, signifying that it’s formulated for winter use. Typical formulas that are recommended for modern engines include 5W-20, 5W-30, and 10W-30, which provide good oil flow at low temperatures and can often be used year-round. Whenever you have the oil changed, replace the oil filter as well to ensure the system has the maximum amount of flow.

While the car is in the shop, have the radiator and heater hoses checked for cracks, leaks, or contamination from oil or grease. The hoses should be firm yet pliable when you squeeze them. Scrap them if they feel brittle or overly soft.

Keep an Emergency Kit in Your Car
The simplest thing you can do to fight the cold weather is to keep a few essential supplies and tools with you as you drive. A roadside kit doesn’t take up much space and can be valuable in an emergency. Many companies sell pre-assembled kits, but if you want to save a few bucks, you may already have the key items around the house. Things you might want to consider carrying include:

  • A flashlight, flares and a first-aid kit
  • Jumper cables and/or a portable jump starter (which doesn’t require another car)
  • A tool kit and tire chains
  • A blanket, warm clothes, hat and gloves
  • Paper towels
  • A bag of abrasive material, such as sand, salt or non-clumping kitty litter. Use this for added traction when a tire is stuck.
  • A snow brush, ice scraper and snow shovel
  • Extra washer fluid
  • Extra food and water

Hopefully you find these tips helpful to preserve your car’s life just a little longer!  Thanks for reading and enjoy the rest of the fall!

Chat next time!

Lindsey G.


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