It pays to be prepared. Here are our tips to get ready for snow and sleet-covered roads, and dipstick-freezing temperatures. We remains motorists to be cautious while driving in adverse weather. We hope you find them useful...
If your car needs regular service, get it done now.
Nothing's a big deal in the summer. You break down? So what? It's a nice night out. Look at all those stars! But break down when it's minus jaw-freezing outside, and that's a different story. Since bad hoses, belts, water pumps and spark plug wires can leave you stranded in the winter, it's better to bite the bullet and fix them. It's better than spending the same amount of money after you've been sitting in your stalled car for three hours waiting for AAA.
Make sure your battery and charging system are up to snuff.
Your mechanic should check the battery, charging system, and belts. Your battery can leave you stranded simply because it's old and lousy. Or it could leave you stranded because your charging system isn't working well, and the battery isn't getting charged properly. So have your mechanic check the battery and charging system.
Check the cooling system.
Make certain the antifreeze will protect your car at the winter temperatures you'll experience in your area. For most areas, you'll need a 50-50 mix of coolant to water. You may think, "I'll be extra good to my car, and give it 100% coolant." Guess what? You're wrong. The 50-50 mix has a lower freezing point. Not only that, but 100% coolant is less able to transfer heat away from your engine, and has been known to cause such nasty things as melted spark plugs of engine failure under the wrong circumstances.So, mix it up!
If you have leaks in the cooling system, take care of them now.
Make certain the antifreeze will protect your car at the winter temperatures you'll experience in your area. For most areas, you'll need a 50-50 mix of coolant to water. You may think, "I'll be extra good to my car, and give it 100% coolant." Guess what? You're wrong. The 50-50 mix has a lower freezing point. Not only that, but 100% coolant is less able to transfer heat away from your engine, and has been known to cause such nasty things as melted spark plugs of engine failure under the wrong circumstances. So, mix it up!
Make sure your windshield wipers are in good shape.
Winter wipers - with the rubber coverings that keep ice from collecting on the blade - have become very popular. They're great in the winter, but make sure you take them off in the spring. Winter wipers are heavy, and if you use them all summer, you'll wear out the wiper motor prematurely.
And when using your wipers in the winter, remember to turn them off BEFORE shutting off the engine. Why? Water frequently freezes overnight during the winter. And if your blades freeze to the windshield, when you go to start your car, the wiper motor may burn out trying to get them back to the "rest position," while you're sitting there wondering, "What's that burning smell?"
Keep your gas tank close to full.
In the summer, you can take a chance and run down to fumes. But in the winter, if you do get stuck or stranded, the engine will be your only source of heat. And you don't want to have to worry about conserving fuel and saving the planet right at that moment...you want to stay warm. You can run the engine indefinitely at idle to stay warm-or as long as you have gas. No harm will be done to the engine.
Make sure your windshield washer reservoir is full.
On a snowy or messy day, you can easily go through half a gallon or more of windshield washer fluid trying to keep your windshield clear. For that reason, it's also a good idea to keep some extra fluid in the trunk in case you run out. And make sure you get the good stuff - stay away from the already-half-frozen stuff outside your local gas station! Even though it may say "Good to Minus 30," some of these cheap fluids freeze around zero degrees! Even if you buy the good stuff, if you live in a very cold area, you also may need to supplement your windshield washer fluid with some concentrate. The concentrate is available in one-pint bottles and works very well at extremely low temperatures.
Make sure your rear-window defroster works.
In many states, the law requires that ALL of your windows be clear before you hit the road. Now, you can always use your old Car Talk T-Shirt on the rear windows to wipe off the condensation - as long as you pull over and do it again every ten minutes. But a working rear defroster is a better solution.
When driving in the snow, do everything slowly.
Even with good coolant, snow tires, stability control, all-wheel drive, and the bag of Doritos in the trunk, keep in mind that driving in snow, sleet, and ice is very treacherous. And even if you maintain control of your car, not everyone else will. So don't ever get lulled into a false sense of security. Do everything slowly and gently. Remember, in the snow, the tires are always just barely grabbing the road. Accelerate slowly and gently, turn slowly and gently, and brake slowly and gently. To do this, you have to anticipate turns and stops. That means what? Going slowly and leaving and leaving plenty of distance between you and other cars. Rapid movements lead to skids and loss of control. Drive as if there were eggs on the bottoms of your feet - step on the gas and the brake pedals so gently that you don't break the eggshell.