Every year at this time, we all make our New Year’s Resolutions. Maybe you already have yours picked out, and you really mean it this year – or maybe you’ve given up on the concept altogether. Well, we don’t have to tell you that 2020 has been one wild ride for everyone – so this year, let’s give up New Year’s resolutions, and focus on New Year’s Solutions. Stop resolving, and start solving. You can see our article here for some tips to keep those New Year’s Solutions positive and productive.
In this article, we’re going to talk about some New Year’s Solutions not for yourself, but for another important member of your household – your trusty vehicle. For many drivers, winter comes with the unique challenges of winter car ownership. Salted streets, ice-covered roads, below-freezing temperatures, and of course, snowfall. Today we’re going to talk about how you can make sure your car is well cared for during the chilly winter months with our eight simple New Year’s Solutions for your cars.
In the winter, the sun sets earlier and rises later, so there’s a much longer period of darkness than we have in the warmer months. As a result, you should make sure your car’s headlights are in good shape. If a bulb is out, get it fixed. If your headlights are looking dim, consider replacing the bulbs so they’re nice and bright again. If you don’t have a spare bulb, consider keeping one or two in your glove box. If your headlights look a little yellowed or foggy, consider a headlight restoration kit to bring them back to crystal clear. Before you start your car on a winter night, make sure to brush away any snow covering all your exterior lights – these lights don’t just help you to see, they make sure other drivers can see you.
It can be more difficult for your car’s battery to do its job in colder weather. If your battery seemed a little weak in the summer, you risk a dead battery in the winter. Have a battery test done before the winter months (you can have this done with an oil change, usually) to make sure your battery still has plenty of juice. If it’s a little weak, plan to buy a new battery as soon as you can, so you don’t have to worry about being stranded in the cold.
Your engine coolant is important all year to keep your engine from getting too hot while it’s running. However, in the winter, coolant is actually doubly important, because it also keeps your engine from freezing in colder temperatures. Make sure your car has plenty of coolant, and top it up if necessary. Most cars have coolant in the radiator, and also in a secondary reservoir off on one side. You’ll see it – it should have bright-colored coolant in it. When your car needs more coolant, it pulls from this reservoir, so if it’s empty, you’ll want to add coolant here. Check it again after driving for a day or two. If the reservoir keeps turning up empty, this can indicate a problem.
Fluids are all very important to your car. Two fluids in particular you’ll want to pay attention to in the winter are gasoline and washer fluid. Keep your gas tank as close to full as possible for two reasons – first, a full tank can help prevent water from freezing in the fuel pump, and second, a full tank lets you run your engine longer to keep you warm if you end up stuck somewhere. Washer fluid is important to keep your windshield clear of the plethora of road debris during winter, from salt to slush to mud. In the winter, consider using a washer fluid which contains a de-icer, which can save you a lot of elbow grease with the ice scraper on a chilly morning.
If you live in an area known for especially cold winters, winter tires are a must. These tires are made of softer rubber, and will stay flexible when the temperature is very cold. This helps them to provide better traction on cold pavement, even if there isn’t snow on the ground. Similarly, soft winter tires get even softer in the summer – too soft, so make sure you change back when the weather warms up.
As temperatures drop, so does pressure – and inside your tires, this can contribute to a number of problems. Every 10-degree drop in air temperature means 1 psi of tire pressure lost, and low tire pressure can lead to premature wear or tread separation, not to mention hurting your fuel economy and causing your car to handle less predictably. You can check your tire pressure at almost any gas station, or yourself with a tire gauge (Don’t have a tire gauge? Get one!), and you can either air them up there at the station, or at any service center. You can find an AskPatty Certified Female Friendly service center near you with our handy search tool.
Take the time to test your vehicle’s window defrosters and the heater to make sure they are both still working as they should. The purpose of these checks should be obvious – keeping you warm in your car in winter, and keeping your windows free of ice and fog.
Do you have a vehicle emergency kit? If you don’t, you should pack one, and in the winter, you should augment that kit with some winter survival items. Though it may seem a little much to those of you who live and drive mostly in cities, anyone could find themselves stranded on an isolated road in the middle of winter. You should pack a blanket, first aid kit, flashlight, jumper cables, a knife, and a spare phone charger (with portable batteries). If you have room, a shovel can be handy for clearing snow or ice if you’re stuck, and a supply of de-icing spray should be inside the vehicle cabin – just in case the hood or trunk freeze shut.
And there you have it – our eight New Year’s Solutions for your cars. We hope you all have a safe and healthy holiday and winter season!