Winter is coming. I bet you’ve heard that one before. Yep, you guessed it – that’s Game Of Thrones. You remember how harsh winter was for them? Well, we’re just a month away from that now, and it’s time to buckle up. I mean, it’s time to take care of our steel horses so that we can welcome these cold-hearted months with comfort, dignity and a smile on our faces. Winter is upon us, and that means you gotta stop whatever you’re doing and focus all your energy on getting your car (and yourself) ready.
So, how do you do that? Well, think of it as if you’re getting your kids ready for the winter season: you dress them in extra layers, make hot chocolate and/or tea, and buy warm boots, right? That’s kinda like what you should do with your car.
Getting Ready For Winter – Keeping Your Car 100%
First of all, you gotta change your tires for the winter season.
Trust me, you do not want to drive on spring-season wheels when it’s snowing outside – it’s actually quite dangerous. Second, you gotta check your oil, your tire pressure, transmission, the windshield – a bunch of stuff.
Please remember – no matter how enjoyable it is – driving in winter might be quite tragic if your vehicle is not at 100%. I can’t stress it enough: your life and the lives of your loved ones are worth more than all the money in the world, so, don’t you dare going cheap and saving money on this! Now, your car needs to be prepared for the rough winter days – no doubt about that. But what’s actually more important is teaching yourself to drive differently. Snow and ice are nothing to play with and you should be prepared for every hidden danger.
Getting Home Safe For Christmas
Alright, let’s get yourself and your car prepped up. A quick disclaimer: obviously you won’t need any of the following tips and tricks if you’re a lucky citizen of Florida or California. Hey, you might even skip the whole article! Still, don’t do that – stick around, we’re all nice here 🙂 On the other hand, if you happen to live in a much colder state, like maybe Alaska, or, if you’ve got a beautiful tradition of visiting your loved ones (parents, or maybe your uncle and aunt) in a colder clime and spend the Christmas with them, then keep your ears sharp: the knowledge I’m about to share with you could come in handy and maybe even save your life! You don’t want to ruin the one great winter holiday season, do you? I didn’t think so…
Never Underestimate The Nature
You’ve been living in a cold-cold state for your whole life and nobody can tell you anything you don’t already know? Come on, don’t get cocky on me – these tips will serve you as great reminders of the routine yet super-important steps (precautions) you should take to maintain your car in a perfect working order for the whole winter. You might think that going the extra mile by being meticulous is silly or just stupid, but that’s all gonna change if you find yourself freezing somewhere in the middle of nowhere with your tires f***’ed up, no emergency kit and no cell-phone reception. So, always pack before you leave and be ready for any accidents the road might send your way. I’ll help you do that.
Preparing To Face The Snow
There’s literally no getting around winter. So, as my father likes to say, “Instead of crying about, do something about it”. In this case – prepare for it. As a matter of fact the changing of the seasons is an amazing opportunity for you to make a complete check of your vehicle and see what it needs to face the cold, snowy, wet or slippery winter roads. I strongly recommend you do this before the first snow falls, because if you ignore minor problems and “leave them for later” during summer of spring, they might get worse, causing you some serious troubles when the temperature suddenly drops in a matter of a few days. If you don’t want to get caught with your pants down, so to speak, then take a good look at the following tips that will help you keep your car in shape and running all winter long:
How To Get Your Car Ready – The Step-By-Step Guide
First things first – take your vehicle to the local mechanic and have him check the battery, brakes, antifreeze level, thermostat, the defroster and the heater.
If your battery is 3 years old, the mechanic is likely to test its ability to hold a charge.
I mean, you could always rely on the good folks of America to help you just-start your engine in the middle of a raging blizzard, but I’d rather you not risk it, you know?
Then, get just the right oil change: the new oil must have the right “thickness” for the winter season. It tends to get thicker in cold weather, and that’s not a very good thing for your engine – it needs to be lubricated enough to work properly.
Next, make sure that your car’s tires have good treads. If they are worn, replace them.
The best thing for your to do is to install a brand-new set of snow tires (I recommend Bridgestone Blizzaks – classic) that have treads with much better traction and are best suited for the extreme winter roads. Keep in mind that different service centers might charge you different for this. So, don’t get lazy and shop around in order to find the best offer.
Also, you should walk around your vehicle and see if there’s anything wrong with the lights. It’s very important to make sure that the lights (both back and front) are working fine – the flashing hazard ones especially.
Taking Care Of The Windshield And The Antifreeze
I suppose a lot of you guys know that often during winter the windshield wiper fluid develops a habit of constant freezing. Don’t get greedy – go to your local store and buy a fluid that’s specifically made to hold up in tough winter conditions. It’s not expensive or anything, so, don’t worry about it.
In addition, get yourself some new winter-ready wiper blades that are able to cut through snow and ice. Again, don’t try to play smart and think that you’ll get away with using the same old ones throughout the whole year. Just got and get them right now – winter’s just a month away…
Ok, moving on. It’s important to have the right mix of antifreeze. An ideal scenario would be to have a 50-50 mix of antifreeze (also known as the coolant) and water in your car’s radiator. This way you’ll freeze-prove it even in the coldest times of winter. To check the balance of your mixture you can just drive to the nearest auto parts store and have that tested. If the balance is off, you must have your cooling system drained and refilled (or flushed). If you wanna do the whole thing by yourself, make sure you’ve got the proper tools and the right skills. If not – better leave it to the professionals.
Packing The Essentials For The Road
If you get into an accident in winter, you could be stuck somewhere on the side of the road. Packing a couple of essentials in your vehicle will keep you safe and ready for whatever “adventures” happen on your journey.
– Always keep your gas tank at least half-filled in winter. This way you’ll significantly reduce condensation and your car will easily start each morning, no matter how cold it is.
If you have a mobile phone or a similar gadget (of course you do! this is the 21st century), make sure it’s fully charged before you leave. If you’ve got a charger in your car then you’re in luck – you won’t have to worry about the battery dying out on you.
Don’t forget to pack your car with a snow/ice scrapper and a shovel. Plus, always remember to take a first aid med-kit with you – that’s like rule #1.
And don’t forget to supplement it with “winter special” stuff like a set of batteries, a flashlight (or two), extra clothes, blankets, matches, non-perishable snacks, and – obviously – bottled water. Hey, don’t laugh – these precautions might flip your otherwise dire situation 180 degrees.
Better Late Than Injured
– If you’re driving a rear-wheel car, a good idea would be to pack a bag of sand with you to create traction under your tires if the vehicle gets stuck. Keep in mind that the engine is the heaviest part of any vehicle, and so, if it’s driven by the rear wheels and not the front ones, it will tend to slide on snow- and ice-covered roads a lot.
Another very important thing to do is to clear the car of snow every time you’re about to hit the road. I’m talking about the headlights, the taillights, as well as the hood and the roof. Yep, I know, nobody has the time and the will to do that, but it’s better to be a bit late but safe than get into a horrible accident.
Did you know that according to the US officials car accidents are the #1 cause of death during harsh winter storms? Yeah, that’s right, so, be extra careful and be 100% ready, so that even if you’re unfortunate enough to get stuck on the road when the storm rages, you’ll manage to survive. It’s a good idea to listen to TV/radio announcements about the weather, road closings, accidents on the road – stuff like that.
– Make sure to let someone from your family know the route you’ll be taking so if you get into an accident your loved ones can let the authorities know where to start searching for you.
Remember that bridges freeze harder than concrete roads so don’t speed up when you approach one. And stay away from big trucks. They need a lot more distance to stop when hitting the brakes than a regular car. Plus, always keep your lights on when driving through snow (or fog and rain) – see and be seen.
And now – Check-List!
1 – Did you install a new set of winter tires with good treads? Or did you at least check your old tires’ pressure?
2 – Did you have a mechanic check your entire car for minor flaws, including, battery, brakes, antifreeze level, thermostat, the defroster and the heater?
3 – Are your lights all working properly?
4 – Do you have an emergency kit packed with all the winter essentials – flashlights, blankets, etc?
5 – Are you a proud owner of a winter-ready windshield fluid, or are you still stuck with the old one?
6 – Is the mix of antifreeze-water right? You gotta have that at 50-50%.
7 – I bet your gas tank isn’t even half-filled. That’s wrong – have it full/half full all the time during winter.
8 – Do you have a phone charger in your car? No? Well, at least remember to charge your phone before you leave!
9 – You forgot to pack a shover and and ice scrapper, didn’t you? What about a bag of sand in case you get stuck? No? Well, don’t make the same mistake next time!
10 – And the final one: Did you tell your family/friends where you’re headed and which route you took? This is very important!
I know I said this is a quiz, but don’t take it lightly: if you miss out even on 1 of the 10 rules you might end up in a pretty drastic situation, no to say tragic. Make a habbit of always checking with the list and you’ll be fine.
Ok, I think that’s it – my survivor’s guide to winter misfortunes.
Be safe and don’t overlook even the minor details – I can’t stress enough how important that is.
If you’ve got some tips and tricks of your own and know a thing of two about getting ready for winter, please, share in the comments section – you might just save someone’s life that way…