How to Prepare Your Vehicle for Inclement Weather
When winter’s inclement weather kicks in, you’ll likely rely more on your vehicle than in any other season. While these machines are typically designed to function in all conditions, the cold winter temperatures can be particularly harsh on the different components and present some safety hazards. You must do some prep work to prepare your ‘baby’ to hit the winter roads. Here are ten tips to give you a headstart.
1. Use a Car Cover
If you don’t have access to sheltered parking that’ll protect your car from the elements, the good news is you can still do something about it, getting a car cover. A high-quality car cover will safeguard your ride from the damaging effects of constant exposure to the sun and other environmental factors. Without this amazing accessory or protective barrier, you’ll soon need to take your car to your nearest auto repair garage for paint-less auto dent repair or a paint job redo. Plus, your auto insurance provider may decline your claim due to negligence.
Car covers are typically made of a thick weatherproof fabric or cloth that serves as the first defense against sunlight, precipitation, snow, and even hail. Most of them are sold as ready-to-use. If you’re interested, you can find an inflatable option that will allow you to activate it remotely at your auto accessories shop. Remember to place it over your car every day you park it outside. However, doing so while your automobile is inside your garage is still advised.
2. Protect Your Vehicle’s Exterior
Eventually, repeated exposure to hot and cold temperatures can result in the formation of scratches or rust on your vehicle’s exterior. Remember that rust builds up faster when the roads are treated with salt during inclement weather. When you use a road that has received this treatment, the salt gradually corrodes the metal and strip off the paint. Your best bet to avoid all these issues is to regularly wash and polish your car, especially after driving. Applying wax will offer an additional layer of protection that’ll stop salt from penetrating the metal.
The same is true throughout the summer when your car is constantly exposed to direct sunlight. Prolonged sun exposure can cause the exterior paint to become dull. Even though you don’t have to apply wax after every drive, it’s best to do it as often as possible.
3. Pay Attention to Your Tires
Your car’s tires are perhaps the most affected by inclement weather. Most drivers find the low tire pressure indicator on their dashboards illuminated on the first chilly winter morning. The science behind this is the air in your tires compresses as the temperature drops.
Low tire pressure may stress and strain your vehicle, which you probably already know if you’ve ever ridden a bike with tires that don’t have adequate tire pressure. It can also result in low fuel efficiency, increase the rate of tire tread wear, weaken your engine, and leave rims and wheels vulnerable. So, check the tire pressure whenever you want to take your car out for a drive, especially during stormy winter weather. Refill any tires to the appropriate level if they are low. The good thing is it won’t take up much of your time.
In your search for how to prepare your vehicle for inclement weather, you’ve probably come across several articles discussing the importance of tire rotation. There’s a good reason for this. The front tires of most automobiles feature a front-wheel drive steering system, which controls how your car twists and turns in different directions as it travels along the road. Therefore, it stands to reason that your front tires will deteriorate faster than the rear ones.
As the tread on the front tires wears out, the uneven wear will leave you vulnerable to many hazards on the road, particularly during winter when the roads are slippery. That’s why you’re advised to have your mechanic perform a routine tire rotation in preparation for the season. This service focuses on rotating the tires to ensure even tread wear. In some instances, uneven wear may indicate the need for a tire alignment service.
If your tires have low tread, your ability to brake and control your car will be hampered, and it gets even more difficult in the snow and rain. In this case, getting tire replacements is the best solution. Thankfully, modern conveniences make buying tires simpler than ever. You can have the delivered right at your doorstep.
If you live in an area that regularly experiences extreme weather events, getting winter tires may be your best bet for prepping your wheels for the season. The treads on winter tires are made to break through slush and snow to keep you in control. These tires’ rubber compositions also withstand the cold weather’s hardening effect. They stay flexible and soft in freezing temperatures, allowing your automobile to maintain traction on the road.
4. Warm Up Your Car Properly
Don’t let the cold throw you off and cause you to ruin your car. The secret to properly warming up your automobile is to run the engine for as long as is necessary to make it safe and comfortable to drive. Start by ensuring your car is in a safe spot, outside in the open air.
Proceed to turn on the vehicle and defroster. While the engine is warming up, the defroster will clear the windows. Leave the engine running for 30 seconds. For most automobiles that are 30 years old or newer, that’s all it usually takes. If your car is covered in ice or snow, and it’s quite chilly outside, give it a minute or two more to warm up.
Note that letting your car idle for too long will damage your engine. So start slowly and take it easy for five to fifteen minutes. Otherwise, there’ll be too much stress on your engine before it reaches its normal performance levels.
5. Service the Brakes
Car issues are the last thing you want to encounter in inclement weather. It’s difficult enough to navigate ice and snow-covered highways, but faulty brakes? That can quickly turn into a nightmare. Ensure your brakes are ready for the chilly season by performing basic maintenance.
Checking and topping up your car’s fluids before winter kicks in is always a good idea; the brake fluid is no exception. Although sometimes overlooked, brake fluid is essential to a car’s brake system. Low brake fluid levels and deterioration over time can result in brake failure.
Ensuring the fluid is in good condition and at the right levels will keep everything functioning smoothly throughout the winter. Replace any brake fluid that has a milky appearance as soon as possible because it’s a sign it has been exposed to moisture. Tainted brake fluid will damage your vehicle’s master cylinder, resulting in expensive repairs.
Visually inspecting the brake pads is always a good idea as it can help reveal signs of wear. Since removing the tires is the only way to conduct this maintenance task, it’s best left to the pros. If the inspection reveals brake pads are in disrepair, you must get replacements.
The warning signs of the need for new brake pads are evident. You likely have brake pad wear if you’ve been experiencing a screaming metallic noise when you press on the brakes. You may also notice brake dust on the front wheels.
Another great tip is to avoid using the emergency brake during inclement weather. The emergency or parking brake, though not formally a component of the vehicle’s braking system, prevents your automobile from rolling back down a slope. Using the parking brake during the cold can be problematic because it often freezes, making it hard to disengage.
When this occurs, avoid trying to operate the car. The best thing is to never apply the emergency brake when driving in the winter. If you have any doubts, have your trusted mechanic conduct a brake inspection as a precaution. Your best bet for getting your car ready for the winter is routine maintenance performed by a licensed, professional technician.
6. Create a Winter Weather Kit
The likelihood of experiencing automobile trouble or getting into an accident necessitating auto body collision repair rises with icy road conditions. Hopefully, it never happens to you. However, in the event that you’re a victim, prepare an emergency kit complete with supplies such as jumper cables, a flashlight, blanket, phone charger, snow brush, or ice scraper. It’s also a good idea to keep a supply of salt, kitty litter, or sand in the trunk. When you apply these on icy patches of road, they’ll help you gain better traction.
7. Take Care of the Transmission
Your car’s transmission doesn’t have it easy during inclement weather. Transmission fluid becomes more dense and less effective at lubricating in lower temperatures. So, take it easy on the gas pedal for the first few kilometers when it’s cold outside.
If you reside in a region that particularly experiences extreme cold, consider purchasing an engine heater. It works like a space heater. All you have to do is plug it into one of your garage’s outlets and wait for it to warm up your engine before heading out. Certain components of your transmission system can succumb to winter’s inclement weather, resulting in leaks.
Besides that, when the roads are wet due to rainfall, extra grit, water, and grease can be thrown into your car’s underside. That can result in more wear on gaskets, joints, and transmission seals. When you keep up with your transmission repair and maintenance needs, your ride will function smoothly, and you’ll be less likely to experience most other vehicle issues. In these chilly and rainy winter months, taking care of your vehicle’s transmission becomes even more important.
8. Get the Appropriate Washer Fluid
Your windshield is a crucial part of your car’s safety features. It shields you from the elements that may otherwise rush at you while you’re behind the wheel. However, there’s more that contributes to safe driving than just this auto glass. The wipers and washer fluid collaborate to maintain a clear view through your windshield.
That said, not all windshield washer fluids are equal. The cold winter temperatures call for one with a low freezing point. This is crucial because if the fluid freezes in the reservoir, it can cause it to crack or suffer another form of damage. If you attempt to pump fluid from an empty reserve, the washer pump may overheat and become dysfunctional.
Empty any lingering washer fluid before switching to the appropriate seasonal fluid. It would be a good idea to drain out the reserve now. Open the reserve first, then use pliers to pull the hose straight down and off. Have a collecting pan handy since the washer fluid will flow out the bottom.
Once you’re sure you’ve drained all the standing fluid, use a garden hose to rinse away the calcium buildup, then clean the inside. Before adding a winter cleaning fluid, replace the windshield washer hose. Like any other component of your car, your washer fluid reserve benefits from regular flushing, which makes it last longer and perform better.
9. Prep Your AC
Even the most dependable automobile air conditioning units may benefit from some TLC. Preparing your car’s AC system for the winter may seem counterintuitive. After all, having cold air blowing in your face during your winter drives is the last thing you want. However, your air conditioner does more than merely blow chilly air. It’s also in charge of reducing the air’s humidity. This means it can help defrost and defog your windshield to increase visibility.
Improving visibility is crucial as the days get shorter in winter’s inclement weather. Every time you drive your car, it loses a tiny amount of refrigerant, so car manufacturers advise you to replenish your AC system’s refrigerant every two years. When was the last time you had your system refilled? It’s time to top off the liquid components of your AC system if it has been too long. You may complete this step at home if you have the necessary equipment and knowledge. If not, let the local auto air conditioning repair shop’s specialist do it.
10. Get Tints
As you prepare your car for inclement weather, don’t forget about tints. Just because its winter doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from auto tinting. Wintertime sun glare is way worse because snow directly reflects sunlight into your field of vision. This makes driving during the cold season more dangerous. Tint makes things much safer by reducing glare, especially on icy or snow-covered roads.
Driving in winter is a whole different ball game. Everything from warming up your car to driving it on the slippery roads presents a challenge. To get your ride ready for the tough times ahead, use this read as a guide.