Car Maintenance Car Safety

Preparing Your Vehicle for the Winter Weather

With snowstorms and icy roads just around the corner, now is the time to get your vehicle in shape for winter. And this means doing more than just making sure your heat works. To prevent getting stuck in the snow, losing control of your vehicle, or getting in a car accident, you need to make sure your car is prepped for everything and anything that winter could have in store. Whether you face surprise snowstorms, negative twenty-degree weather, or black ice, the list below should help you stay as safe as possible on the roads this season.

1. Look out for free winter vehicle checks.

Before you tackle anything on this list, do a little research in your area. Many chain auto shops offer free or discounted winter check-ups starting around November. Scanning your paper for promotions or googling a few shops near you, could end up saving you huge on time and money.

2. Know your battery’s CCA rating.

Have you ever had your vehicle suddenly not start in the middle of winter? Well, this is most likely due to your battery being old or not having a very high CCA rating. A CCA rating is the number of amps your battery can deliver at a temperature of zero degrees Fahrenheit for a duration of 30 seconds. Which basically means it can give you a good idea of your batteries ability to start your engine in cold temperatures.
Typical cars have a CCA rating of 350-600 and trucks tend to range a little higher. If you are consistently driving in temperatures of zero degrees Fahrenheit or lower, you will want your battery to have a CCA rating of 500 or greater. If you know you will be driving in freezing temperatures, it may be a good idea to purchase a new battery if you do not exceed this rating or if your battery is getting old. In typical Michigan weather, you should be fine with a lower CCA rating, but knowing your rating can give you insight into when it might be better to stay in for the day.

3. Check your coolant condition and level.

Engine coolant is what prevents your vehicle from overheating. As such, many people are concerned about their coolant levels in the summer, but it is just as important to check them in the winter. Why? When the temperature outside falls below thirty-two degrees Fahrenheit, there is a possibility that your engine coolant could freeze in your vehicle’s radiator. The radiator is responsible for regulating the temperature of your engine — making sure it doesn’t get too hot or too cold. If the coolant in the radiator freezes, the radiator is unable to keep the engine temperature stable, which could lead to your vehicle breaking down. So, before winter begins, you should make sure your vehicle has the proper amount of coolant and that the coolant is in good condition.
Learn how to check your coolant here.

4. Check your tire pressure and tread depth.

As the temperature drops in the winter, your tire pressure does as well. Because of this, at the beginning of winter, you should check to see if the pressure of your tires is at the proper level. You can find the optimum level for your tires in the owner manual of your vehicle, however, if you don’t have that on hand, 30 to 35 PSI’s or pounds per square inch is a good range to be in. Maintaining the proper pressure level will contribute to your tires lasting longer, will ensure that your vehicle handles better, and will help you save money on fuel.
Just as important as the pressure of your tires is their tread depth. As your tires wear down, their ability to perform in the snow decreases, and the chance of losing control of your vehicle increases. You can check the tread depth of your tires using a penny. Just run the penny through several grooves of your tires. If Lincoln’s head is always covered, you have more than 2/32″ of tread depth remaining (anything under 2/32″ is considered dangerous for driving).

5. Assess the condition of your brake pads.

During the winter, icy roads and bad weather conditions often mean that you have to apply more pressure to your brakes to stop your vehicle. If you want to ensure you have strong stopping power in the winter (and want to avoid being stuck on the side of the road during a snowstorm) you should check the condition of your brake pads. Signs of thin or damaged brake pads include:

  • A squealing sound is present when braking
  • Brakes feel hard to press or require more force to slow down
  • Your vehicle pulls to one side when driving

Learn how to check your brake pads here.

6. Check your wiper blades and wiper fluid.

To avoid losing significant visibility during winter snowstorms, you will want to take a look at your wiper blades as well as your wiper fluid. To inspect your wipers, first run them in your vehicle during bad weather or with your wiper fluid. If your wipers are making any noise or are not cleaning off areas of your windshield, there is a good chance that your blades are damaged. Next, you will want to put them in the upright position — away from your windshield. Run your finger or hand along the rubber and see if there are any deep grooves or missing pieces. If there are, you need to replace your wipers. If not, inspect your wipers for any dirt or grime. They may just need a good cleaning.
As for your wiper fluid, filling it is as simple as buying fluid, locating your fluid reservoir, and adding it until you reach the fill line. The video below can show you how it’s done.

7. Put a winter supply box in your vehicle.

No matter how prepared your vehicle is for the winter, accidents can happen. You might find yourself stuck out in the cold due to a collision, getting stuck in the snow, or drifting off of the road. In all of these cases, you will want to be prepared for a potentially long wait. Below is a list of things that will come in handy if you find yourself stuck in cold weather.

  • Jumper cables
  • Flashlight
  • Chains
  • First-aid kit
  • Small knife
  • Flares
  • Energy bars
  • Water gloves
  • Small shovel
  • Waterproof matches
  • Ice scraper
  • A bag of sand or kitty litter
  • Candles
  • Lighter
  • Charged cell phone

It might be time for an upgrade.

If you don’t currently have a vehicle or at least not one that will be safe for the winter, we at Car City can help. We have plenty of winter-ready vehicles on our lot, and with guaranteed financing options based on your income (not your credit score), we are bound to have something you’ll love and be able to afford. You can check out this blog post for a few of our top AWD vehicles, or search our site yourself by clicking here.