Fall Car Essentials: How to Prepare Your Car for Winter
Learn how to prepare your car for winter with Honest Accurate’s fall car essentials checklist. Fall is the perfect time to get your car winterized for the snowy, freezing days ahead. The temperatures are still mild, the roads aren’t quite icing over daily (yet) and your local mechanic is in the grove winterizing cars for drivers who want to get ahead of our first fall snowstorm. We’ve created a quick and easy fall preventative maintenance checklist to help you hit the roads safely when winter weather blows in.
Common Winter Car Problems
If you’ve driven in Colorado for any length of time, you have probably witnessed, or experienced, at least one of these common winter car problems:
- You’re driving up a very slight grade on an icy day and the person next to you cannot make it up the hill. They start fishtailing and spinning their tires, to no avail. They pull to the side of the road, if they can make it, and there they sit until they can get a tow truck or a friend to come and pick them up.
- Temperatures drop suddenly and your car won’t start in the grocery parking lot. If you’re lucky, you may find a kind soul to give you a jump (if you have jumper cables available).
- You’re driving down the highway after a storm and your car becomes coated in a dirty, grimy film — and you’re all out of windshield wiper fluid. Suddenly, you’re scrambling to a gas station for a refill between frantic attempts to improve visibility
- You hop into a friend’s car for a day out and about and the vehicle is freezing. “I have no idea what’s wrong with my heater,” they say. “I think we will have to just bundle up until I can get it into the mechanic.”
Most of the problems outlined above can be prevented with the right winter car maintenance. The key is to plan ahead and stop them before they ever inconvenience (or endanger) you. Let’s take a look at some ways to get ahead of common winter car problems.
Avoid a Dead Battery — Check Voltage and Amperage
If your battery is 3-5 years or older, have the voltage and cranking amperage checked. Summer heat often takes the biggest toll on car batteries, but the drain won’t really show up until the winter. Just when you really need your car to start to get to work in the morning or take your child to school, it becomes a very costly driveway ornament.
Batteries require minor basic auto maintenance (like cleaning the terminals) so there is less drag on the system. Batteries also require periodic replacement. At Honest Accurate Auto Service, we install a quality platinum battery with a 5 year, non-prorated (full replacement cost) warranty to help power drivers through the winter months. Warranteed batteries can save customers a lot of money if a replacement is required. For example, our warranty will provide battery replacement for a nominal labor fee for up to five years.
Perform Routine Maintenance on Car Tires
A tire inspection should always be at the top of your winter vehicle maintenance checklist. When driving your vehicle, the area of your tires that actually makes contact with the road is only slightly larger than the size of your palm (this varies a little depending on the type of tire). Not a very big area, right? It is critical that this small contact patch has adequate gripping capability.
Three things affect how effectively your tire grips the road:
- Tread depth: For city driving, all-weather or winter tires will work well … but only if the tread depth is adequate. When driving in cold weather, your tire tread depth should be at least 4/32nds. (As a point of reference, new tires begin at about 10/32nds.)
- Siping patterns (grooves and channel patterns in the tire): Tires come with specific siping patterns, or they can be cut into the tire for certain weather conditions.
- Degree of hardness of the tire rubber: Winter tires are made of a softer rubber so they adhere to the road surface, but they also wear faster (which is why we don’t keep winter tires on the car through the summer).
Winter tires are made for ice and snow, so if you are driving into the mountains frequently or are looking for maximum safety, they are worth the extra expense. However, a quality set of all-weather tires can also be used if snow tires are not an option.
Brake Check: Don’t Be Unstoppable this Winter
So, you have good tires and maybe even 4-wheel drive, but you need to stop quickly and your brakes are worn. Will your brakes bring your 4,000-pound (give or take) vehicle to a safe stop in enough time to avoid hitting the car in front of you? Brake pads and rotors/drums require periodic maintenance and/or replacement to be effective.
The Honest Accurate crew always measures the thickness of brake pads and evaluates the condition of the rotors/drums during any service we complete in our shop. Brake safety is just that important! New brake pads start out at 10-12mm thickness. We recommend replacement when the pads are 2mm. You should also have them checked if you have noticed squealing, grinding, softness, slower stops or burning smells when driving and stopping.
Check your coolant/antifreeze level and condition
Maintaining a consistent temperature in your vehicle’s engine is critical to preventing engine damage. You might think that cold weather can buy you time if your coolant is low or empty while you are driving, but it absolutely will not help. No matter the temperatures outside, your vehicle is running at extremely high temperatures that must be monitored to prevent damage to the engine. At the same time, a lack of antifreeze can also allow your engine to freeze in the winter (hence the name, “antifreeze”).
Prevention begins with checking your reservoir and refilling the antifreeze as needed. However, it also requires that you ensure there are no leaks. Radiators, hoses, and gaskets can deteriorate and develop leaks over time. It doesn’t help that winter temperatures can cause components to contract, leaving them more vulnerable to potential damage. Keep an eye under where you usually park your vehicle, and if you see any puddles, have it checked out as soon as possible. Leaks only get worse with time! And, as a side note for your maintenance/vehicle service planning, the coolant system should be flushed every 5 years or 100,000 miles, whichever comes first.
Check Your Oil to Keep Your Engine in Check
Be sure you are up-to-date on your oil changes and maintenance schedule (per your vehicle manufacturer’s recommendations). Changing your oil on a regular basis is the best preventive medicine for your vehicle in every season, but winter makes it especially important.
- Cold weather means cold oil when starting your car after a long pause. It can take much longer for your car to warm up and for the engine oil to reach optimal operating temperatures. You also want to ensure that your oil is newer so it will run efficiently.
- Your vehicle can suddenly experience fluctuating oil pressure in cold weather. The same factors that affect oil viscosity and temperature can also change oil pressure. Some fluctuations can even cause the oil to bubble up with air and register it as a pressure error.
Change your oil before winter weather begins. Your engine will perform at its peak and your mechanic will have a chance to inspect the vehicle, top off fluids and provide you with an update about your vehicle.
Improve Car Health and Schedule Maintenance for Winter Car Essentials
Now is the time to be proactive and prepared for Colorado winter weather. At Honest Accurate Auto Service, we do a complimentary inspection on all of the above systems, plus several more. We will give you an inspection report with a checklist that prioritizes essential services and notes services that can wait just a bit longer. We are also always willing to do a quick courtesy check on your tire tread and air pressure or check fluid levels if you have a concern. We even offer a car winter emergency kit checklist to help drivers learn how to prepare for extreme cold weather, snowy road conditions or the dreaded winter breakdown.
Let us help you get your vehicle ready before the cold weather strikes! Just give one of our shops a call or schedule an appointment online at: https://honestaccurateauto.com/schedule-auto-service-appointment/
We look forward to seeing you and your vehicle soon!