17 Dec Prepping Your Vehicle for Winter Driving
Old Man Winter is bringing a chill to the air and snow and ice to the roads. Getting your vehicle in tip-top shape is one of the best strategies to staying safe as the mercury drops below freezing.
As Ben Franklin’s truism reminds us, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” In other words, it’s easier to handle a problem before it occurs than after it has started. And while that can apply to most vehicle safety preparation, it may go doubly so for winterizing your vehicle.
For drivers that live in Snowbelt states or Canadian Provinces, winter can be a challenging time to operate your vehicle. Extreme weather, less-than-uniform road snow removal policies, and less-than-prepared drivers can contribute to making winter roadways hazardous places to drive.
One of the best things you can do before the bite of winter becomes too deep is get your vehicle in tip-top shape.
Winterizing your vehicle isn’t complicated, but does require you to be thorough. Before you do anything, check your fleet policy — if your vehicle is provided to you by your employer — and follow the preventive maintenance (PM) procedures for winterizing your vehicle.
If you are operating your own vehicle, consult your owner’s manual about the recommended PM schedule.
While it’s almost a given that PM for your vehicle will involve a typical tune up, winterizing includes a number of other steps designed especially for the season to keep your vehicle running smoothly and you safe and secure, and includes:
- Checking all fluids: Coolants should be treated with antifreeze to prevent the radiator from freezing solid, you may have to switch out to a thinner oil during the winter months, and wiper fluid should be switched to a freeze-resistant type to help maximize your visibility
- Checking tires/Replacing with snow tires: Have all of your tires checked, particularly for wear, damage, and tire pressure (cold weather can affect tire pressure). Worn or damaged tires can be particularly hazardous in icy and snowy conditions, since they won’t be able to grip the slippery surfaces as well and may fail causing a crash or, at the very least, inconvenient, chilly downtime. Depending on how much snow your area gets, you may want to switch to snow tires, which can improve your traction and safety. All-weather tires are another option to consider — since they will help you avoid the hassle of having to store an extra set of tires and having them changed out yearly. No matter the option you follow — outside of regular maintenance — inspect your tires regularly for damage and wear using the quarter or penny test.
- Checking the battery: Battery life can be affected by cold weather. Have the battery level checked as well as all of the cable and connections to make sure they are all in good shape and free of corrosion.
In addition, you will want to do regular inspections of your lights and test your brakes throughout the season. Being visible and able to stop safely are two crucial factors to keeping you safe on the road, whether you’re going around the corner to the store or making sales calls throughout your work day.
Winterize for Emergencies
If you already have an emergency kit in your car and it was packed for spring-summer-fall emergencies, you will need to make some adjustments for winter weather. The items you should have for winter, in addition to your standard kit items, include:
- Flashlight (with extra batteries)
- Blanket, leather gloves, and hat
- Bag of cat litter or sand, which will help give your vehicle traction if you’re stuck in snow or slush
- Ice scraper and brush
- Small shovel — either a traditional snow shovel or a small folding shovel, which are widely available at surplus stores and can be used in the warmer months
- Extra cell phone charger
Finally, you should winterize your driving skills. A quick review of winter driving techniques before the first big storm of the season is always helpful to remind you how to drive defensively and safely in snowy and icy conditions.
The bottom line is to be prepared. By winterizing your vehicle, your emergency kit, and your driving skills, you will be taking steps to be safe and productive throughout the entire season.