Get Your Car Ready for Winter
Keep the Juices Flowing
Replace vital fluids such as motor oil, differential fluid and transmission fluid according to the vehicle manufacturers’ time and mileage recommendations.
Motor oil is an engine’s lifeblood, reducing friction between moving parts and cleaning away harmful dirt and contaminants in the engine. Generally, drivers should use the lightest grade of oil their vehicle manufacturer recommends for the conditions they drive in. During the winter, this may mean an even lighter grade than usual. The right motor oil grade can save an average of three cents per gallon of gasoline.
Antifreeze/coolant is also important in colder temperatures to keep the engine from freezing.
The air filter is like a vehicle’s lung, helping the engine breathe as it burns fuel. When the filter gets clogged with dirt, leaves or other contaminants the engine has to work harder to pull clean air into the cylinders, reducing fuel economy. Air filters should be periodically inspected and changed. A new one can save an average of 11 cents per gallon of gasoline.
Amp Up the Energy
A weak battery is unreliable and may take longer to start on frigid winter mornings. According to the American Automobile Association, a battery can lose 35% of its power at 32 F and 60% of its power at 0 F. Have the battery tested at the beginning of the season to make sure it has enough cranking power to withstand the cold. To minimize strain, start the vehicle with the heater, lights and window defrosters turned off.
Under-inflated or worn tires are common problems that can be dangerous on slick, icy roads. Under-inflated tires create extra friction where the rubber meets the road, making them wear faster and unevenly. This impacts the vehicle’s traction and can possibly lead to dangerous blowouts. Properly inflated tires also provide better cushion between potholes and the tire rim, lessening the risk of wheel alignment damage.
Tire pressure should be checked regularly and filled to the recommended cold level. This information is usually located in the vehicle owner’s manual or on a sticker in the doorjamb, trunk or glove box. Correct tire pressure is vehicle-specific, not tire-specific, so do not use the pressure listed on the sidewall of the tire.
Correctly inflated tires can improve fuel economy by about five cents per gallon of gasoline.
Keep an Eye on the Prize
Windshield washer fluid is critical for good visibility since it helps clear away ice, road grime and dirt. Add more when the reservoir is low.
Wiper blades should glide smoothly across the windshield so they do not leave streaks or blind spots. If there are pits or rough patches on the part that touches the glass, the blade needs to be replaced.
A properly packed emergency kit is essential during the winter. It should contain a flashlight, extra batteries, water, flares, blankets, a shovel, a snowbrush, an ice scraper and tire chains where they are allowed by law. Kitty litter or sand can be spread under tires to get better traction when starting from an ice patch or in the snow.
* Savings estimates based on a $3.75 (USD) cost per gallon of gasoline and government and independent studies.