The best time to winterize your car? Before the first big snow. A good set of snow tires or all-weather tires, plus common sense to allow more stopping time on snow- and ice-covered roads, go a long way in getting from Point A to Point B safely.
If you drive in the mountains, where snow is heaviest, dedicated winter tires might be a good idea. Their tread patterns and rubber compounds provide optimum traction on slick roads, according to Consumer Reports. It’s also a good time to check tire pressure. For every 10-degree drop in temperature, a tire’s air pressure will decrease about 1 pound per square inch. Tires must be properly inflated for the best contact and traction.
As the weather grows colder, it’s also a good idea to check your car battery. Low temperatures “reduce your battery’s cranking power — in fact, at about zero degrees F, your battery only has about half the cranking power it has at 80 degrees,” says Consumer Reports.
The cooling system should be flushed every two years, but check the owner’s manual to be sure. This keeps corrosion from building up. The winter car check should include a look at the level, condition, and concentration of coolant. Coolant can be purchased full strength or pre-mixed half antifreeze and half water. Most regions are suited to a 50/50 water-antifreeze mixture, which provides protection from a low of minus 34 degrees to a high of 265 degrees F.
4. Wiper Blades
Streaks on the windshield? Now’s the time to upgrade those wipers. Some cheaper versions last only a few months, but a bit more of an investment can keep you wipers good for 10 to 12 months, he said. And stock up on windshield fluid. You’ll use more in winter.
Make sure they’re clear and bright. Yellowed headlights can be restored, improving visibility.
6. Regular Maintenance
Routine checks of oil, brakes, transmission, steering, and suspension are good to do all through the year.
7. Be Prepared
Keep a kit in the trunk with your spare tire, windshield fluid, jumper cables, ice scraper, blanket, flashlight, snacks and water, first-aid items, a small shovel, hat, gloves, extra clothing and snow boots.
8. Emergency Essentials
Also good to have along on the road are flares, sand or kitty litter for traction, extra flashlight batteries, a cell phone car charger, and tire chains, says the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence.