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Winter Maintenance for Your Car
Winter can be hard on a car, with the cold, snow, ice and salt. Preparing your car properly for winter and keeping it maintained throughout the winter can help you save money and stay safe.
At the Start of Winter
Before the winter begins in earnest, have your car serviced. Get an oil change, and check your filters and fluids. Pay special attention to your windshield washer fluid; you don’t want to run out just as you need to remove slush from your windshield. And make sure your wiper blades are in good shape.
Ask the mechanic to take a close look at your cooling system, including checking the radiator pressure and examining hoses for cracks or weak spots. Make sure your antifreeze is sufficient to handle low temperatures.
Check the charge on your battery. If the charge is low, recharge it – or better yet, replace it.
Stopping on winter roads can be especially dicey, so have your brakes checked. Similarly, check your tires to make sure the tread is still good and they are inflated properly. Depending on where you live and what type of tires you have, you might want to consider snow tires or chains. And check the air in your spare.
Give your car a good coat of wax, which can help protect against salt and road grime. Then clean the interior with protectant cleaner.
Remove any leaves or other debris that have built up at the bottom of your windshield; these can keep your windshield washers from operating properly. Open your hood and remove any debris that has worked its way inside. And while you are at it, take a look to make sure no animals have made a nest and decided to hibernate in your engine.
Finally, put a winter emergency box in your trunk, in case you are stranded in the cold. The box should include blankets, jumper cables, a flashlight, water, food, a first-aid kit, flares, a small shovel for digging out of the snow and a bag of kitty litter to provide traction under your tires. When you drive in winter, always have a fully charged cell phone. And make sure you have a good ice scraper on board.
During the Winter
Continue to maintain your tires, checking pressure and treads. Similarly, check your fluid levels, including your windshield washer fluid, regularly.
When you park your car, flip your wipers up so that they are not touching the windshield. This makes it easier to scrape off your windshield and keeps your wipers from freezing to the glass.
Practice safe winter driving. Watch your speed, especially in bad weather. Leave plenty of room between you and the car in front of you, because it can take longer to stop on slick roads. Know how your brakes react; you might want to try them out in a snowy – and empty – parking lot.
Don’t let your gas tank get below half full. That can help avoid gas line freeze-up, and it also means you will be less likely to run out of gas if you get stranded.
Allow yourself extra time to get where you are going so that you are not tempted to go faster than road conditions allow. And if the weather forecast is particularly bad, stay home.