Winter driving can be hazardous for motorists and severely damaging to vehicles. Each year, according to the Federal Highway Administration, 24% of weather-related car accidents happen on snowy, slushy, or icy pavement, and 15% occur during snowfall or sleet. Additionally, these types of accidents kill over 1,300 people and injure more than 116,800 people annually.
Fortunately, winterizing your car can help you avoid accidents and troubling situations while driving during the colder months.
Winterize Car Checklist
Before the colder temperatures arrive, prepare your car for winter by following these tips.
Inspect Your Tires
You want to ensure your car has plenty of traction to drive through winter conditions, so it’s important to inspect your tires. To find out if your tires have enough tread depth, get a penny and insert it into 10-15 areas of the tire. Repeat this process for each tire. If a portion of Lincoln’s head is not visible, your tire is good to go, but if you see all of Lincoln’s head, you must replace your tire. You may want to consider switching to winter tires, especially if you live in an area with a lot of snowfall.
Fix Tire Pressure
Why does tire pressure go down in cold weather? For every 10-degree drop, your tire pressure decreases by one pound per square inch. This can be dangerous because a severely deflated tire can cause a blowout if you hit a pothole, potentially resulting in a car accident and leaving you stranded in the cold. To help prevent disaster, use a tire gauge to regularly check the air pressure in each tire. If your tire pressure is a little low, use a portable air compressor to pump up your tire.
Test the Battery
Your battery performs best when the temperature is around 80 degrees. But in the winter, it takes more power to start your car since battery power drops as the temperature decreases. If it’s been a while since you purchased a new battery, consider taking your car to an auto service center to test your battery. They will recommend whether you need to replace your battery or not.
Change the Oil
Cold temperatures thicken your engine oil, making it harder for your engine to start, which puts a lot of stress on your starter and battery. Consider changing to a thinner, lighter-weight oil to maximize your car’s performance this winter.
Add Proper Coolant
Coolant — also known as antifreeze — is liquid that absorbs excess engine heat and passes through the radiator to cool off before circulating back to the engine. This process helps prevent overheating and extensive engine damage.
If the system lacks coolant, your engine may experience serious damage. Regularly check the radiator’s reservoir tank to ensure there’s sufficient coolant in there. If the level is below the minimum line, you’ll need to add more coolant. Also, it’s important to add the right coolant for your car because mixing different types of coolant can damage the engine. Take your car to a technician who will help you pick out the right coolant for your vehicle.
Check Belts and Hoses
Colder temperatures can weaken belts, hoses, wires, and cables. Wires and belts can crack, hoses can leak, and cables may need lubrication. Take your car to a mechanic to inspect and replace these parts to avoid getting stuck on the road.
Check the Cabin Air Filter
Keeping your car’s interior warm and windows defrosted is important for a safe, comfortable drive in the winter. But suppose your cabin air filter is dirty and clogged. In that case, it can cause your HVAC system to perform adequately, slow down window defrosting, and allow airborne contaminants and allergens to enter your vehicle. To ensure you have no problems this winter, check your air filter and take your vehicle to a technician if you need to replace it.
A thorough inspection of your brakes can help ensure your vehicle is safe to drive in winter conditions. If you notice any of the following things while using your brakes, you may need to take your vehicle to a shop to have them check for any problems:
- A metal-on-metal noise when applying your brakes
- Your car pulls left or right when applying your brakes
- The brake pedal pulsates when the anti-lock brake system is not activated.
Change Wiper Blades
If your wipers look dry and brittle or leave liquid streaks on your windshield, it may be time to replace them. Snow and slush can quickly accumulate on your windshield, so keeping your wiper blades in good condition is important to prevent an accident.
In addition to inspecting the condition of your wiper blades, it’s a good idea to check your windshield fluid tank frequently. Make sure you have a gallon of windshield fluid in your car so you can quickly refill the tank when it needs it. Also, ensure that the fluid you purchase won’t freeze when temperatures hit zero degrees or below.
Prepare an Emergency Kit
Sometimes, things happen beyond your control, even with strategic preparation. However, you make an unpleasant situation a little more tolerable when you put together an emergency kit. Here’s what to keep in your car for winter:
- Jumper cables
- Flashlight and batteries
- Ice scraper
- Non-perishable food
- Extra coolant
- Road flares
- First aid kit
- Tire inflator
- Tire pressure gauge
- Tire patch kit
- Triangle reflector kit
The Bottom Line
When temperatures drop, car accidents often rise, as does the importance of keeping up with your car’s maintenance. Using extreme caution while driving and keeping your car fully insured are the best ways to stay safe on winter roads. If you’re looking for reliable car insurance, Mercury provides high-quality coverage at an affordable rate.