Now that the cold brutal winter is here, how well will your vehicle perform?

Most mechanics will tell you the best time for car owners to begin preparing vehicles for cold weather is during the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving. But we are beyond that point and since you are reading this article, there is a possibility something may have slipped your mind while preparing your vehicle.

Remember, it is never too late. Below we list a few essential things every car owner should know when preparing his or her vehicle for the harsh cold winter months. This short list will help to ensure peak performance and safety during the winter season:

1. Batteries
Winter is extremely hard on batteries. According to AAA, it’s the most common source of stranded vehicles during the the winter months. Battery capacity decreases significantly during the cold winter months. During the cold start-up our vehicles has to work hard to turn the motor because the engine oil is far more viscous, thickening of the motor oil, thus requiring more electricity from the battery. But the chemical reactions that take place in the battery itself to generate the power are severely diminished as temperatures drop. A weak battery will fail at this task. Therefore it’s important to have your battery checked, preferably before winter, but as stated before, it’s never too late. Especially if you have a battery older than three years old.

2. Oil
In general, the colder the weather, the thinner you want the oil in your engine to be. The engine oil is thicker during the colder months. The viscosity of your oil in colder weather is indicated by the first number in the oil specification, with a lower number indicating better viscosity in cold weather. Therefore, you should consider switching to a winter-grade oil, a lower cold weather viscosity grade. If you normally use a 10W-30 oil then switching to 5W-30 for the winter.

3. Antifreeze
Maintain the coolant system in your vehicle is critical. Do not assume because it is cold your motor will remain cold too. The engine cooling system should be filled with a 50/50 mixture of antifreeze and distilled water to prevent freezing and boiling over. We recommend following the manufacturer’s recommendations for changing the antifreeze. Antifreeze testing kits are available at your local auto-parts store. But most stores will test your coolant system for free or charge a nominal fee.

4. Windshield wiper blades & washer fluid
Road snow and salt will cover your windshield during the winter and making it impossible for you to see clearly when driving in harsh cold conditions. Inability to see through your windshield either during the day or night is one cause of car accidents. Drivers can maximize their cars visibility by keeping the windshield free of any obstacles using the correct wiper blades and washer fluid.

5. Tires
During the winter, having the right tires on your vehicle is more important than any other time of the year. The tread compound of all-season, and especially summer tires, can harden in low temperatures, resulting in less traction. However, winter tires use special rubber compounds that stay more flexible in the cold, giving them better grip and improved braking. It’s also important to make sure to check your tire pressure. We recommend following the tire manufacturer’s recommendations. And finally, inspect the tread wear. An easy way to check for wear is by using the “penny” test. All you need is a penny, or if you are a big spender, use a quarter, and follow these easy steps. Hold the coin so you can see the President’s head and turn it so the head would press into the grooves and between the treads. Make sure to select a point on your tires where tread appears the lowest. If you can see the top of the President’s head, then it’s time to replace the tires.

6. Prevent door locking
Prepare your door locks above freezing temperatures. As the temperatures drops below freezing, there’s a likelihood you door’s locking mechanism will freeze due to moisture in the locks. This is especially true after rain and then dropping temperatures below freezing. Lock de-icer thaws frozen locks and lubricates internal lock mechanism quickly and keeps them working.

We recommend you treat your locks with Lock de-icer, WD-40, or Vaseline.  As for door moldings and gaskets, apply small amount of lubricates like Vaseline or WD-40. Apply the lubricates to a microfiber towel and then massage it into the rubber sealant around the doorframe.

Stock your vehicle

Stranded by the side of the road can be dangerous in the best of conditions, but when below freezing temperatures or bad weather is involved, it can be deadly.

Having the following supplies may save your life:

  • Blanket
  • Ice scraper
  • First-aid kit (w/ Small pocketknife and scissors)
  • Flashlight
  • Flares
  • Jumper cables
  • Tire Chains
  • Small shovel
  • Couple energy bars and/or food
  • Waterproof gloves
  • Waterproof matches
  • A bag of sand or kitty litter to help provide traction if your car is stuck in the snow.

A little preparation goes a long way to keep your vehicle running at peak performance during the winter months. Not only will the right tools and maintenance protect you and your vehicle from the harsh elements, but more importantly, they will also keep you and your passengers safe.

Keep dry, stay warm and stay safe this winter.