Yeah, we know – the leaves haven’t fallen yet, you don’t know what you’ll be for Halloween, and your Thanksgiving turkey is still grazing in a field somewhere, so why are we talking about winter? It’s because early Autumn is the perfect time to begin preparing your vehicle for winter driving. Starting now ensures that you won’t be caught off guard when Old Man Winter shows up to the party earlier than expected (ever notice how old people like to do that?). That being said, here’s our top three tips on what you can do to better prepare your vehicle for the winter ahead.
Tires are arguably the most important parts of your vehicle because they directly connect your car to the road surface below. They are especially important during the winter driving season because their ability to grip slippery snow and ice – both while accelerating and braking – largely depends on their overall condition and tire pressure.
So first things first – check your tire pressure once the temperature starts dropping. As the air becomes cooler, it becomes more dense, which means the air pressure in your tires is going to drop as well. This is important because not only will incorrect tire pressure lead to poor fuel efficiency, but under-inflated tires will widen your contact surface area which is the opposite of what you want in snowy conditions.
Next step – if you intend on keeping your all-season tires installed during winter, check the tread depth. Most people don’t own a tire tread depth tool, so instead, use a penny. To do so, place a penny into one of the grooves in the center of your tread depth. If the depth is between the top of Lincoln’s ear and the top of his head, your tires have usable life left (the closer to his ear the better). If your tires are past the top of his head, or very close, you should seriously consider purchasing new tires before winter begins.
While your battery doesn’t come in contact with your road like your tires, it’s still a critical component of your vehicle because if you can’t start your car, well, you can’t drive it. Winters are especially tough on car batteries because the freezing temperatures decrease their capacity. This reduction in capacity is an issue because when you start your car, the starter requires an immense amount of amperage. Without the cold cranking amps to do so, the car won’t start and nobody wants to be stranded in the cold.
To prevent this from happening to you, be sure to have your battery tested. Instead of testing just the voltage of the battery, request to have the battery load tested. This will check to make sure the battery’s cold cranking amperage is within spec. Having this test performed now will give you plenty of time to replace it before it winter sets in.
An often overlooked and underappreciated component of your vehicle are the wiper blades, yet they are essential for driving safety. Winter can be especially tough on them. Freezing temperatures can make worn rubber blades brittle. If this happens, the blade will no longer effectively wipe away moisture buildup from your windshield. To make that task even more challenging, melting snow and ice on the road, combined with road salt residue, more easily coats the glass and is prone to smearing.
In addition to inspecting your wiper blades, be sure to also check your windshield washer fluid level. Spraying your windshield will aid your wipers in removing the smeared brine from the glass. If you need to top off the fluid, be sure to buy a winter specific fluid. These have a lower freezing point than normal washer fluid and some contain additives to help melt buildup of ice.
As much as we hate to say goodbye to summer, the leaves are starting to turn colors which means Old Man Winter is on his way. Make sure your vehicle is ready for the change in season so you stay safe on the wintry road. At a minimum, be sure to follow those three tips. When in doubt, be sure to stop by our Pennington, NJ shop and we’ll gladly inspect your vehicle to ensure it’s prepared for the winter ahead.