Winter Driving Safety: Winterizing Your Car and Other Tips

Throughout the winter months, many of us experience the season’s harsh conditions on America’s highways. Unfortunately, our vehicles bear the brunt of these weather conditions. Due to cracks, crumbling roads and road salt, our vehicles struggle to hold up. Without proper attention, flat tires and damage due to winter roads can become a regular occurrence.

We share ways to winterize your car, as well as some helpful tips to drive safely on damaged winter roads.

How to Winterize Your Car

Winterizing your car is an important step that can help prevent winter damage to your vehicle.

If you live in an area where weather conditions drop below freezing, switching to a thinner oil can help protect your engine. Make sure you refer to your owner’s manual to determine the right oil for your vehicle.

When the temperature drops below freezing, your vehicle’s battery decreases in capacity. Have your battery tested in the fall to avoid difficulty starting your car on cold mornings.

Winter tires will make your commute easier, but not everyone wants to deal with switching out a set of tires on a regular basis. A set of all-season tires will help your vehicle handle winter roads as well as summer driving.

An emergency kit is an important item to keep on hand in case you wind up in an accident or find yourself stranded. A blanket, flashlight, shovel, road salt (or sand or kitty litter) and snacks are some of the things you should keep in your emergency kit. A charger for your cell phone will help ensure you can call roadside assistance.

Protecting Your Car From Salted Roads

Salt lowers the freezing point of water, which melts ice and prevents more from forming. It’s also cheap, costing about $50 a ton. Without salt on the roads during winter storms, there would be many more crashes and spun-out vehicles on the streets and highways.

Unfortunately, using salt to keep the roads drivable is also doing damage to your vehicle. 

To keep lingering road salt from damaging your vehicle, wash your vehicle's undercarriage regularly throughout the winter and give it a thorough washing in the spring to remove road salt and other de-icing chemicals.

Wax is often applied to the body of vehicles to protect from rust, but it’s not just a cosmetic treatment. The wax can also be used to seal the undercarriage of your vehicle, helping to prevent winter damage. Rust affects the structural integrity of the body of your vehicle. If you have an accident, you want the body panels and wheel wells to be as strong as possible. Several winters’ worth of road salt can undo the protection your vehicle offers.

How to Spot Winter Damage to Your Vehicle

A flat tire is obvious, but repeated bumps on the road can also cause slow leaks or other issues that aren’t as immediately noticeable.

Watch for these signs of potential vehicle damage. Remember, if you hear any odd clunks, bumps or screeches, get your vehicle serviced immediately.

  • If your vehicle bottoms out while driving, your shocks or struts may be worn down.  
  • Regularly check your tires to make sure they’re properly inflated.
  • A heavy hit could cause damage to your vehicle undercarriage, so watch for any pooling liquid under your car when you park.
  • Watch for any flaking or scaling from metal brake pipes. If the corrosion is severe, you may need to have the full assembly replaced.
  • Pay attention to any warning lights that come on during the winter, especially the brake light. The light may indicate a problem that could grow worse with time.   
  • Be on the lookout for large icicles that often form under bridges or inside parking garages. As the weather changes, they can snap off, falling and causing damage to your vehicle. 
  • The sand that’s laid down for added traction sometimes includes larger pieces of gravel that can be flung up by other vehicles. If a piece of loose gravel damages your windshield, don’t delay in getting it repaired.

Are You Protected?

Unfortunately, situations arise when we least expect them — like when your vehicle won’t start and you’re stranded on the side of the road. The good news is with Farm Bureau Financial Services Roadside Assistance you will be safe day and night when you need it most. Don’t wait until you are in the unfortunate circumstance — learn more about it today!