Lessons in preparing for winter…

Probably a victim of over-filled tires!

Probably a victim of over-filled tires!

You know who’s an idiot? Me. Here’s why:

Whether I’m commenting on the craziness of auto politics or making fun of the Subaru B9 Tribeca, I write something car-related every single day.

Yet it wasn’t until the temperature dropped to 1 and there’s a thick layer of ice on the roads that it occurred to me that I’d better make sure my family’s vehicles are prepared to survive the winter.

So if I’m late in “winterizing” my car, it’s a safe bet lots of others are too. Here’s what I finally did to make sure my family, and my cars, stay safe this winter while navigating the treacherous stretches of Pacific Northwest highways, backroads and poorly plowed residential streets:

1. Check the tire pressure (some people might consider putting on snow tires, though my all-seasons are still fairly new)

Add too much pressure and the amount of rubber on the road is decreased, which, as I learned last year, is a great way to get intimate with curbs. Too little pressure and you’ll compromise fuel economy and the tire’s integrity.

2. Check the oil

If your last oil change was in the summer, the oil’s viscosity may be too thick for adequate winter protection. It’s a good idea to look at the owner’s manual and see what oil is recommended for winter driving.

3. Test the AWD system

I tested this the fun way, on the unpopulated twisties near my house. I don’t condone that or recommend it. But it confirmed that yes, my AWD was kicking in at the appropriate times.

4. Check the antifreeze

We have a predicted low tonight of well below zero. If my antifreeze was only good to 15, I’d be in quite the pickle tomorrow. The antifreeze tester that I picked up at the corner auto parts store confirmed that I’m in good shape.

5. Check the battery

I might be gambling on this one, as batteries have a nasty habit of dying during snowstorms in front of Target at 10 pm. But, my battery shows a good charge even though it hasn’t been changed since 2002. I’ll risk it. You shouldn’t.

6. Replace wipers and add fluid

And make darn sure that the wipers are attached properly. I won’t tell you about the time I had to drive with my head out the driver’s side window because my wiper launched itself into oblivion.

7. Clean out your cupholders

You need to make sure you have a clean, sturdy place to put down your extra hot triple venti mocha. 

Is there anything about winterizing your car that I missed?

-tgriffith 

4 Comments

  1. How about keeping in a cell phone charger or spare battery in your car, just in case? That’ll keep you safe if the worst comes to the worst.

    Also, check the oil and make sure your lights are working…

  2. If you live in the northeast or other parts where snow and ice are common, it is well worth investing in snow tires. All wheel drive is fine but without good snow tires the traction is not all that useful. Invest in dedicated snow tires and you will be amazed at the improved handling and braking capabilities of you car.

  3. For the trunk: jumper cables and a half-pint of brandy for when you leave the road in the mountains with overinflated all-season tires and your 2002 battery quits. Put on snows, man!

  4. Another good recommendation is to clean off your car of snow BEFORE you drive. A lot of people will only clean enough off to see, but when they drive on the road, sheets of ice will fly off and possibly scare the living daylights out of anyone behind you.

    Also, you never really wanna travel much with a low tank of gas – if you get stranded you’re going to want to stay warm!

    Other people go as far as to place emergency supplies in their car like a blanket, flashlight and MREs or other non-perishable, easy to eat foods.

    Most of all, do not forget your cell phone!

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