When winter rolls around many of us make changes to our homes like weatherstripping, adjusting the furnace, protecting plants, and more. But what about our vehicles? Preparing your vehicle for winter is essential for anyone who lives in an area that accumulates snow and ice. Many of us rely on our vehicles for everyday transportation which on its own produces a lot of wear and tear, however, wintertime can tack on an even bigger toll. Driving in the winter is not only dangerous but it can also have a significant impact on how your vehicle functions, especially if it has not been adjusted for the changing of the seasons. When the temperatures start to drop you should take a day to check your vehicle and make any necessary changes to ensure the safety of yourself and other drivers on the road.
Just like every other machine, cars and trucks require various fluids to run smoothly. It is essential that you stay up-to-date on having these changed especially in the winter when colder temperatures can have adverse effects on your vehicle.
Oil: In general, you should have an oil change performed regularly based on your vehicle mileage and especially before wintertime. Most oils are specially formulated to flow better in extreme temperatures and full synthetic blends are the preferred choice for cold weather. However, not all oils are considered equal and the best thing you can do is to follow the recommended choice in your vehicle’s owner’s manual.
Antifreeze: As the seasons begin to change so do the temperatures inside of our vehicles. Antifreeze is crucial to maintaining proper operating temperatures by preventing nothing freezing and overheating. Antifreeze needs to be mixed with water to create a usable coolant solution. Typically this ratio is 50/50 but in the winter, a 70/30 ratio is more ideal.
Windshield Wiper Fluid: Most people despise the yearly struggle with icy windshields but switching to a winter-formulated windshield washer fluid might just be your solution. Typically, these products are used to help clean and remove gunk from the glass while some are even designed to help repel water. However, certain windshield washer fluids are formulated to freeze at much lower temperatures allowing them to easily melt away snow and ice.
Gas: While freezing temperatures aren’t likely to affect the gasoline in your car, there have been instances in vehicles where the gas level is low and condensation enters the fuel lines causing serious problems. In general, it’s never a good idea to keep your gas tank less than half full especially so in the wintertime.
One of the biggest hassles in the winter is defogging and defrosting windshields. And on top of that, there always seems to be a debate on whether you should use hot or cold air to defog your windows. The key to getting rid of this condensation doesn’t lie in the temperature but rather the humidity. And the best way to remove the humidity is by using both your heater and your AC. Crazy right?
The first step is to turn your car’s heater and defroster on high. Next, turn your AC on. The coils used inside of the cooling system are extremely beneficial in removing excess moisture. The third and most crucial step is to make sure the car’s air recirculation setting is turned off. Because warm air holds more moisture in it than cold air, the inside of your vehicle is going to be more humid than the outside. You want fresh, dry air coming in to help remove the fog quickly. And lastly, crack your windows. If you can get the humidity levels inside your vehicle to more closely match the outside then your foggy windows will promptly dissipate.
Defrosting your windows is a whole other story. But one thing is for sure, never, ever use hot water to melt the ice! Most people use a plastic ice scraper to chip away at the snow and frost. However, there is a simpler and less tedious way to do this. Mixing a simple solution of 2/3 isopropyl and 1/3 water in a spray bottle will allow you to easily melt away any snow and ice stuck to your windows. Because alcohol has such a low freezing temperature, you can even leave this bottle in your vehicle overnight for later use.
For people that live in areas where heavy snowfall is a common occurrence, driving in it isn’t a problem. But for those of us who live in places that only get occasional snowfall, we aren’t as accustomed to it. If you find yourself having to drive in the snow there are a few guidelines you should follow to ensure the safety of yourself and the other drivers on the road.
While cruise control is a luxury to have, especially on freeways, it should never be used during inclement weather. Having total control over your speed is crucial during the winter. As such, you should always accelerate and slow down slowly to avoid sliding, (four-wheel drive does not mean four-wheel stop).
Regardless if you are on a busy street or not, you should increase your following distance between vehicles. When the roads are icy you may not be able to stop as quickly as you would like and if you are too close behind someone you’re likely to slide into them.
Speeding, in general, is never a good idea but this is especially true in the winter. Not only are you more likely to slide out and crash if there is snow or ice on the road but these inclement weather conditions also significantly reduce our visibility and therefore our reaction time.
If you do end up losing control of your vehicle due to ice it is absolutely crucial that you don’t try to overcorrect and quickly jerk your wheel in the opposite direction. If you lose traction and begin to slide let off the gas and apply steady pressure to your brakes while aiming your steering wheel in the direction you are sliding. Many of us might have been taught to pump our brakes in these situations, however, this is only true if you don’t have ABS (anti-lock braking system) brakes. And since most newer vehicles come equipped with anti-lock brakes, this pumping action can actually cause more harm.