Now that the weather is starting to cool off and holidays will be upon us before we know it, it’s time to plan ahead for traveling easily and safely this fall and winter. The experts at KBB have pulled a list of need-to-know tips to have you ready for winter driving in no time:
1. Make certain your electrical system is prepared for cold, wet weather. Cold diminishes the effectiveness of a car’s battery, so if your battery was on the edge in the fall, the winter will send it over the cliff. What that means is your car won’t start or, if it does start, it might leave you stranded on the side of the road. If you haven’t purchased a battery in a while, have your car battery and the charging system checked. A new alternator – the thing that charges your battery – might also be required.
2. Make sure your car has proper antifreeze/coolant in the cooling system. Antifreeze is a no-brainer when the temperature dips below freezing. What is less intuitive is that your car can still overheat even when it is freezing outside. Make sure you have antifreeze/coolant that is up to the job by having it checked. And a check of belts and hoses at the same time is advisable.
3. Check out your tires. At the very least make sure your all-season tires have good tread depth and are at proper inflation pressures. If you live in the Snow Belt, dedicated winter tires could well be a better solution. That involves some expense but amortized over several winters the cost will likely be worth it due to the safety and peace of mind you gain.
4. Visibility is often compromised in winter weather, so be certain your windshield wipers and windshield washers are working properly. If you wipers have been soaking up the sun all summer, they are probably compromised, so treat your car to a new set. And make certain your windshield washer reservoir is filled with wiper solvent, not plain water that can freeze and render them inoperable. Check that rear wiper and washer, too, if you have one.
5. Prepare your winter driving skills. In the winter you will often drive over surfaces that are compromised by snow, ice and freezing rain. Learn how to handle your car in these situations by practicing in an empty parking lot. Bad weather rewards patience and smoothness.
6. Don’t drive on “E.” Bad weather can descend on you quickly, and it might leave you marooned. In such an instance the last thing you want to do is run out of gas, because that can turn your car’s warm cabin into a deep freeze. You don’t have to top off every day, but don’t run the car near empty either.
7. Plan for a worst-case scenario. Despite your best efforts, you might find yourself stranded. That’s when prior preparation can help you. Having warm clothing, gloves, an operating flashlight, and water or liquids in the car can aid your survival and rescue in inclement weather. If you live in an area that gets heavy snow, chains can aid traction considerably and kitty litter can help you extricate your car if it gets stuck. Throw in a good book, and you can profitably pass the time.