In a previous article on this topic I went over the top ten car preparation items you need to work on before winter arrives. That installment covered fluids, starting system, fuel system, charging and battery systems, and a few other important items.
In this article I give you my second best ten tips for preparing that car before winter ice and snow hit our roads. In order to explain the various components which need looked at I will go over each of the main focus areas individually.
1) First thing to consider is a thorough cleaning of the interior so that all the junk you have been lugging around with you all summer is properly stowed away in the garage or basement until spring. This allows you to have more room for your winter gear and any sports equipment or toys you enjoy using. For example if you enjoy snowboarding then you will want space for your equipment instead of those boxes of parts from the last three projects you worked on.
2) Next I like to super clean the windows, wash the body and put a good coat of wax on the car so that the ice and snow come off easily when it is time to brush off the car. I absolutely hate it when the windows fog up so badly that you can not even go anywhere for the first ten minutes while the car warms up. Cleaning the windows really well prevents this problem.
3) A thorough check of all the electrical systems with a focus on the interior and exterior lighting is in order. If you replace one bulb then it is always wise to replace the opposite one as well. Make sure the radiator fan is working properly. It should typically come on when the engine temperature gauge is between 195 degrees and 205, and turns off around 185 to 190 degrees.
4) Next I like to check out the exhaust system to make sure there are no rusted spots that can cause leaks, which can be a real pain in the neck to work on during the colder months. Not to mention a potential safety issue if you are sitting in a closed up car for any period of time. If you do not have the tools or skills for this, then take it to a professional and have it repaired correctly.
5) Tires are the most important item for safe driving in the slick wet weather we have here in Northeast Ohio during winter. There are some who swear by the use of studded tires in the winter so if you use them then make sure the dates you are going to use them are within legal limits, and schedule them to be changed on time. We keep ours mounted on a spare set of rims so all I have to do is jack the car up and swap out the tires.
6) Another rubber product that will need changed is your windshield wiper blades. It is good to change these at least once a year. Also fill up your washer reservoir with the best washer fluid you can afford. I am a fan of the orange colored “Rain X” brand washer fluid because it helps keep the ice and snow from sticking to the windshield.
7) If you have four wheel or all wheel drive, then you are going to want to check out the mechanical systems that operate this specialized equipment. The linkages will need lubricated and tested before things get too cold and snowy. If you are not truly skilled here, then again take this job to a professional.
8) Braking systems are paramount to safe winter driving and if you are not equipped to do your own brake work then take it to a professional before the cold weather sets in. Have them go over the entire system including the anti-lock brakes and make sure everything is up to par and safe for cold weather driving. Many of us can still change the pads on our caliper style brakes without specialized equipment, but the newer anti-lock braking systems on our cars are becoming more complex every year.
9) I find that it is much easier to work on a faulty interior heating system in nice weather versus finding out your fan is blowing up on the coldest day of the year. Testing it calls for some very simple measures such as driving with the windows down and the heater on high listening for any vibrations rattles etcetera. While seeing if the heat is coming out strong on all fan settings. I also find myself checking that there is no smell of antifreeze in the cabin during these tests. This could mean a leaky heater core and that is a big job on some cars plus it is never fun. I check that the heater fan controls are all working properly as well.
10) This is also a good time to check out and test any “On-Board” safety gear that will be needed during cold weather. I keep an air pump that works off the convenience adapter socket ,and once I could not find the power cord so I had to make a new one, so it is smart to keep this all in one box. I also make sure the power fuse is not blown when testing the air pump on one of my tires which needed a few pounds of air. I also keep an emergency battery jump starter so I like to test it to make sure this machine is working properly as well.
I am certain there are many other items to be considered, but my goal here is to mention the important items which can help keep you safe when driving in winter months.
This article is based on many years of automotive experience, and having performed these tasks annually.
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