Steps to Winterizing Your Car

The first snowflakes of the season fell in Baltimore last week. While they didn’t amount to much, it was a good reminder that colder weather is on the way. Meteorologist Ava Marie visited Tim’s Automotive in Parkville for some tips on getting your car ready for winter.

Refuel often
Keep your gas tank full to prevent the gas lines from freezing. You’ll also be glad to have the extra fuel if you get stuck in a traffic jam during cold weather.

Check your windshield wiper blades
Replace any blades that are cracked or torn. In general, blades start to lose their effectiveness after one year.

Fill up your windshield washer reservoir

Check your tire pressure
Your tires must be properly inflated to ensure you’ll have the best possible traction – and traction is often severely jeopardized in wet or icy conditions. The air pressure in your tires also drops when it gets colder, by about 1 lb per square inch for each 10 degree drop in temperatures. The correct tire pressure can be found in your owner’s manual.

Consider investing in snow tires
If you live in a hilly neighborhood, or one that tends to receive more snow, then you might want to swap out your all-season tires for snow tires during the winter. When shopping around for tires, ask about all the associated fees, including fees for mounting and balancing. The total cost of tires is generally referred to as the “out the door charge”.

Give your battery some TLC
Make sure the battery’s posts and connections are corrosion-free. If your battery is more than three years old, have a certified repair shop test its ability to hold a charge.

Consider an oil change
Your engine oil should have the right viscosity, or thickness, for your vehicle at this time of year. Oil tends to thicken as it gets colder, and if it’s too thick it won’t do the best job keeping your engine lubricated. Check your owner’s manual for guidance about which oil to use in different climates and temperatures.

Examine your belts and hoses
When you have a full service done on your vehicle, make sure the belts and hoses get checked for wear and tear – even on newer vehicles. Cold temperatures can cause these materials to wear out faster.

Do you have four-wheel drive?
If so, make sure it’s working properly – especially if you haven’t used 4WD since last winter. Be sure the system engages and disengages easily, and that all drivers in your household known how and when to active the system.

Get the antifreeze mixture just right
Aim for a 50-50 mix of antifreeze (coolant) and water inside your radiator. This will prevent the mixture from freezing during extreme cold. Your local mechanic can do this for you, but you can also check this yourself with an inexpensive antifreeze tester found at any auto parts store. If the mixture is off, your cooling system should be drained and refilled or flushed.

Prepare an emergency kit to keep in your trunk

  • Blanket
  • Extra boots and gloves
  • Extra set of warm clothes
  • Water and food
  • Ice scraper
  • Small shovel
  • Flashlight
  • Windshield washer fluid
  • Extra windshield wipers
  • Road flares
  • Jumper cables
  • A tool kit
  • Tire chains
  • Tire gauge
  • Spare tire with air in it
  • Tire-changing equipment
  • First aid kit
  • Paper towels
  • Bag of abrasive material like sand, salt or non-clumping kitty litter, which can provide traction if you get stuck in snow

And in the event you do get stranded, here’s what to do:
Don’t wander away from your car unless you’re completely sure about where you are and how far you are away from help. Light two flares and place them on each end of your vehicle to let others know you’re in trouble. Put on extra clothes and use blankets to stay warm. If you have enough gas in the tank, run the engine and heater for about 10 minutes for each hour you’re waiting. Leave at least one window open a little bit so that snow and ice don’t seal the car shut.


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