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Winter Driving Checklist

Winter weather has a way of making even the most well maintained vehicles misbehave. With so much potential for disaster, both car and driver need every possible advantage. Let’s take a look at the most commonly affected components and try to give them a fighting chance. While it’s always a good idea to take your vehicle in for a full checkup before winter weather kicks in, here’s a list of components you can check at home. 

Winter Driving

  • Test heater and defroster for proper functionality
  • Check and replace wiper blades (See article: How Often Should I Change My Wiper Blades?)
  • Check tires for excessive and uneven wear. If you don’t have a tread depth gauge lying around, a penny or quarter will do the trick. Take measurements at the tires outer edge, center and inside edge. Insert the coin head down into the tread groove. If you can see the top of Washington’s head, it’s time to shop for new tires. If you can see the top of Lincoln’s head, head to the tire shop immediately as your tread is below the legal minimum. 
  • Clean the top of your battery and remove any corrosion. Dirt serves as a conductor, draining battery power, while corrosion inhibits flow.
  • If you live in a warmer climate, and adjusted your coolant ratio for the summer, remember to switch back to the appropriate water-to-anti-freeze ratio for the winter. (See article: Quest for the Ideal Coolant Ratio)
  • If you live in a cooler climate, check your owners manual for a recommended engine oil viscosity change for the winter.
  • Tires naturally lose 1-2 PSI each month. Additionally, tire pressure tanks 1 PSI for every 10 degree drop in temperature. Check tire pressure weekly during cold weather for peak fuel economy and safe driving.
  • Always keep your gas tank at least half full to decrease the chance of moisture forming and freezing in gas lines.
  • While road salt ensures safer travel, it causes rust and corrosion on our vehicles undercarriage, including the exhaust system, suspension and frame. Consider visiting a collision shop before winter to have the underside of your vehicle pretreated with an oil solution that prevents this seasonal damage, or regularly visit a car wash that has under-spray during icy months. 
  • Check your car emergency kit for used and expired items. Restock your first aid kit, drinking water, and non-perishable snacks. Confirm that your kit includes jumper cables, a flashlight with fresh batteries, warning triangles or road flares, and gloves.  Consider adding a small tool kit or multi-purpose tool and fire extinguisher, as well as a snow shovel, warm blanket and cat litter if you may encounter snow and ice. Cat litter works just as well as sand to assist tire traction and weighs less. If you live in a colder climate, ensure that ice scraper is handy.