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A car about to drive on a snow-covered road.

Winterize Your Car With These Top Tips

October 11, 2016

It’s that time of year when the leaves are turning colors, the days are getting shorter, and the weather is probably starting to cool off, depending on where you live. Can you believe it? The holidays are right around the corner and soon the snow will start flying and that means preparing for winter. While it might be easy to remember to ready your home for winter, it’s easy to forget about ​winterizing your vehicle(s) for the cold winter months. Keeping your vehicle running safely is your #1 priority.

9 Tips to Winterize Your Vehicle and Keep It Running Safely This Winter

Gas up.
Imagine pushing a stalled vehicle out of traffic because you’ve run out of gas. Now, imagine it during a cold, blustery, single-digit temp night with stinging wind biting you in the face. It’s not fun, and it certainly isn’t safe. Make sure you keep your gas tank at least half full to prevent gas line freeze ups. We understand leaving your warm driver’s seat to fill your tank doesn’t sound like much fun, but it’s worth it. Don’t gamble your safety by trying to get to your destination on fumes.

Check your battery.
This may be one of the most overlooked winterizing tips each year. Most car batteries need to be replaced every 3-5 years. Is yours due for a change?

Mount winter tires.
People who live in snowy areas often equip their vehicles with all-season tires without switching to winter tires when the weather changes. While there are advantages to all-season tires, there are several benefits to snow tires as well, especially when the temperatures start to drop. When temperatures continually hover around or below freezing, the rubber compounds in non-winter tires harden, decreasing the grip on the road. Enter, winter tires. “Winter” or “snow tires are made to withstand icy and snowy roads by keeping better tread grip and road contact during these conditions. The tread on snow tires is designed with special patterns which allow the tires to dig into snow and ice.

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Maintain tire pressure.
During winter, 10 degrees can feel like a big difference, and it can for your tires, too. Did you know that every 10 degrees change can mean a gain or loss of 1 PSI on tires? That means you should check your tire pressure more regularly during the winter and refill your tires if needed. Can’t remember how to inflate them? Check your vehicle owner’s manual or the place card in the driver’s side door for instructions. Also, know the age of your tires. Tires should be rotated every 3,000 – 6,000 miles to help them wear more evenly and last longer.

Keep your rear-window defroster in working order.
While it’s important to know what’s going on in front of you on an icy roadway, it’s just as important to know what’s going on behind you, too. Make sure ​to winterize your rear-window defroster by checking to see if is working properly because if not, it can create unsafe driving conditions. In fact, several state laws state that all your windows must be clear of condensation and debris.

Motor oil.
When most people think about servicing a vehicle, they think an oil change. And it’s just as important during the cold winter months as well. Motor oil keeps your engine lubricated and working properly, but cold temperatures can cause it to thicken and move slowly, and even potentially cause your engine to overheat. You may need to switch to an oil with lower viscosity or thickness. Your owner’s manual should contain recommendations for the specific type for your vehicle.

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Another key fluid during the winter is antifreeze, which keeps your engine from freezing on cold days and overheating on hot ones. Make sure your fluids are topped off because without antifreeze, you risk major damage to your vehicle.

Winter driving safety kit.
Being prepared for wintery weather out on the road is important to making sure you stay safe. Here’s a list of items to pack in your winter driving safety kit:

  • First aid kit

  • Ice scraper

  • Bag of sand and shovel

  • Flares

  • Jumper cables

  • Matches

  • Warm clothing: extra jacket, mittens, socks, boots, hat

  • Extra antifreeze

  • Non-perishable food and drink items

Regularly service your vehicle.
All of the above can help you winterize your vehicle, but the truth is, many people overlook the ​importance of regularly servicing your vehicle. Be sure your wires, cables, spark plugs, hoses and belts are all working properly. They can go bad at any point, but during the winter it can be even worse. When you do get your vehicle serviced, make sure the auto mechanic checks the battery and charging system as well as the antifreeze and cooling system.

Before you get behind the wheel this winter, there’s a handful of safety precautions you can take to minimize your chances for an accident:

  • Clear all snow and ice from the windshields, windows, tops and sides of vehicles.

  • Slow down and allow extra time to get to your destination safely.

  • Allow enough stopping distance between you and the vehicle in front of you.

  • Keep an eye on the weather. Be smart and aware of inclement weather headed your way.

Winter is nearly here, and you shouldn’t be afraid of it. Embrace the cold weather and snow that makes winter so much fun. And in doing so, make sure you ​connect with a Farm Bureau agent and protect what matters most today.