Maintenance Monday: Keep Your Car Safe All Winter Long

Many of us just turned back our clocks for Daylight Savings which means shorter, colder days are soon to be upon us. So as you break out your sweaters from storage and invest in a few space heaters, it’s also important to make sure your car is winter-ready. Wet roads, dark commute hours, ice, snow and cold temperatures all put a strain on our vehicles and could lead to costly accidents, so it’s important to take precautions before it’s too late. Although winter doesn’t officially start until next month, there are some things that we can do ahead of time to prepare for the chill.

Maintenance Monday

Ensure your tires have tread.

Tires are the most important component to safe winter driving. It doesn’t matter what kind of vehicle you drive, the tires are the only contact your vehicle makes with the road. The area where the wheel touches the ground is called the contact patch, and while it’s small in size, it’s important to keep it as efficient as possible. Tires are designed to expel water, snow and other road debris so that the tire tread does not fill up and lose contact with the ground. If the tread loses contact, your car will hydroplane and you could totally lose control. Avoid this by ensuring your tires are in good shape and have about 1/3 of an inch of tread. You can measure with a penny – simply take the coin and hold it with Lincoln’s head facing down. If the penny goes in past the top of his head, the tires are good, but if the tread does not reach the top of his head, the tires need to be replaced. Keep in mind that even though the tires seem fine, lower tread depths are still less efficient are and may have problems if pushed too hard.

The other component that keeps the contact patch efficient is vehicle speed. If there is a lot of water or debris on the road surface, slow down. This allows the debris to be expelled through the tread more efficiently and keeps the tire firmly planted on the road.

Check your wiper blades.

Functioning wiper blades are very important in maintaining full road visibility. Winter months are cold and dark, and when the roads are wet, the light from your headlights bounces off of the road surface and makes it more difficult to see. If your windshield is wet, dirty or streaky, visibility will be impaired even more, which can potentially lead to errors in judgment and ultimately an accident. Wiper blades are inexpensive and can usually be purchased for $30 or less at most auto parts stores or online.

Inspect the engine coolant.

Engine coolant is made up of over 50% of water. The rest of the coolant is comprised of chemicals that help lubricate the water pump, keep the engine cool and prevent it from freezing. If you live in an area that gets below freezing temperatures, it is important to have your coolant changed or at least checked before the temperatures get too low. If the coolant in your engine freezes, it can expand to the point where something inside of your engine cracks or causes the radiator to break. Both of these situations can be very expensive since a whole new engine will be needed. Take control of that situation and have your cooling system inspected before the freeze.

These are just a few things that you can do to keep you and your vehicle safe during the winter months.