When winter approaches, we break out the sweaters, coats, boots and mittens. We want to be ready for winter conditions. Your vehicle needs to be ready for winter as well. The last thing you want is to get stranded out in the cold. You need your vehicle to be safe and reliable. It's a good idea to get caught up on any neglected maintenance items anytime - but the stakes are higher in the winter.
There are some specific things that we need to do to have our vehicle ready for winter. The most obvious is having the antifreeze checked. If the antifreeze level is too low, it can't properly protect your engine, radiator and hoses from freezing. If your car does not seem to be making enough heat to keep you warm, your antifreeze level may be low or you could have a thermostat problem. Get it checked out. If you are due for a cooling system service, now is a perfect time to have it done.
In the cold months we always worry about being able to stop in time when it's slick out. The first thing to remember is to slow down and allow yourself plenty of room to stop. Of course, you want your brakes to be working properly. A thorough brake inspection will reveal if the pads or any other parts need replacing. Check with your service consultant to see if it is time to replace your brake fluid. It accumulates water over time which really messes with your stopping power.
It is a really good idea to have your battery tested. A battery's cranking power really drops with the temperatrue. If your battery is weak in the fall, it may not be up to winter. There is nothing like a dead battery in a snow storm.
Which leads us to an emergency kit. You should always have a blanket or something to keep you and your passengers warm if you get stranded. If you will be venturing away from civilization, pack more items such as food and water to help you survive. Keeping at least half a tank of gas is a good precaution if you get stuck and need to run the car to keep warm and it will help keep your gas lines from freezing up.
Winter always makes us think of our windshield wiper blades - usually during that first storm when they aren't working right. That's why it's a really good idea to replace your blades in the fall before the winter storms. If you live where there's a lot of snow and ice, you might want a special winter blade that resists freezing up. And be sure to have enough windshield washer fluid.
The final thing to consider is your tires. Any tire can lose pressure over time - up to one pound every six or eight weeks. For every 10 degrees the temperatrue drops you lose another pound of pressure. So if it was 80 degrees outside when you checked your tire pressure two months ago and now it's 40 degrees out, you could be down 5 pounds of pressure. That's enough to be a real safety issue and it wastes gas too. You may need special winter tires as well. Your tire professional can help you find the right tire design for your expected road conditions.
If you're getting winter tires, it is always best to put them on all four wheels. If you are only getting two, have them put on the rear - even if you have a front-wheel drive or four-wheel drive vehicle.
This is a very important safety measure recommended by tire manufactruers. Sliding or fish-tailing on ice and snow is a matter of not having enough traction at the rear end. That is why your newest tires should always be on the rear.