Vans, trucks, cars, and SUVs all handle the winter weather differently, but there are five universal parts of your vehicle that you should winterize before the weather turns:
Before a storm comes your way, get a standard inspection of your brake pads and brake fluid to make sure they’re working properly. Remember to give yourself extra room to brake during bad weather. If you don’t have anti-lock brakes, then it’s better to pump your brakes when trying to stop to avoid spinning.
Cold weather means less air pressure in your tires. Make sure to refill your tires as the pressure decreases to enhance their performance and your gas mileage. Also, it’s a good idea to fill your spare tire, just in case you need it during a particularly crazy storm. According to TireRack.com, “Proper tire inflation pressure . . . stabilizes the tire's structure, blending the tire's responsiveness, traction and handling.” Underinflated tires can lead to loss of steering accuracy and stability, and even tire failure. For those of you who are living in a new area, check with the locals to see if you should be carrying snow chains with you (I’m lookin' at you, North Dakota).
Well-worn tires can also pose a threat in the wintertime. Your tire’s traction is all that stands between you and an accident. If the tread depth of your tires is worn away, make sure to either buy new tires, snow tires, or get your “balded” tires [siped].
You can easily have your engine and anti-freeze checked at any car stop. Just make sure you don’t replace your anti-freeze with water! As temperatures decrease, the water will freeze, expand, and crack your engine.
As relentless winter storms blow around you (especially if you live in areas that get snow), your wipers are what stand between you and seeing the road. Make sure your wiper blades are relatively new and that the wiper fluid is filled. Don’t use water, though. If the temperatures get too low, the water will freeze on your windshield and then you have a whole new set of problems.
Headlights & Brake Lights
Lastly, get your headlights and brake lights checked. If you can’t see, and more importantly if others can’t see you, then you’re just asking for trouble. Get your headlights aimed properly—keeping your low lights aimed low to reduce glare from storms (if you live in an area that gets snow).
It goes without saying that the best way to winterize your car is to keep up on your regular maintenance checks (but we are going to say it anyway). These checks will keep your vehicle in prime condition no matter what time of year it is. Now that you’re all set to brave the winter weather on the road, good luck with your other winter prepping!