Step outside most anywhere across America right now, and you’ll realize that at last the cold has come. (Except for Florida. It’s not cold in Florida, but there are alligators, so the place is to be avoided nonetheless.) When you venture out into the frosty weather, you prepare appropriately, no? That means the right footwear and socks, a layering of thermals, flannels, et al, rugged pants, a fine warm coat, a hat and gloves, and perhaps a thermos filled with hot coffee/cocoa/rum.
What’s that you say? Why, you’re merely taking a few steps to your car and there’s no need for such preparation? Fine then, perhaps you don’t need to winterize your wardrobe… but have you winterized your car?
Indeed, you’re not the only thing that’s effected by the colder climate! That Dodge/Datsun/Durango out in your driveway needs some wintertime TLC if it’s going to properly weather the winter weather.
So, before you ask your car to keep you safe and warm this season, take some time to winterize your car. And also remember that asking a vehicle for anything is not merely futile, it’s actually borderline insanity: automobiles are not sentient.
Winterizing Basics – AKA The Bare Minimum
• Replace the coolant in your vehicle’s radiator system, making sure the blend is as close to 50% water, 50% antifreeze as possible. This will help maintain proper engine temperature even as the exterior temperature drops.
• Ensure your wiper blades are in good shape. Replace them if need be, and remember to stand them up prior to snow fall or freezing rain.
• Fill up your windshield wiper fluid reservoir with a cold-weather approved formula, and make sure all sprayer heads are clean and clear. (Note that the first time you don’t have a sufficient supply of the right fluid during wintery weather, you will remember reading this admonition!)
• Pack a scraper and perhaps even a small snow shovel into your vehicle. This will help clear the windshield and/or clear a path for your tires.
• Check your battery. Unless you actually know what you’re doing, get a professional to ensure it is in good working order. It should be replaced if it’s more than four years old or if it’s not holding a charge of greater than 80%+.
• Check tire pressure, as it will likely drop as cold weather constricts the rubber. You should fill your tires to their optimal pressure, then test them several days later. Also make sure your spare is filled up.
• Get an oil change at the start of the cold season, and inquire about oils formulated ideally for colder weather.
Winterizing Like A Boss – AKA This Is How You Do It
(First, do all the stuff above.)
• Get a set of snow chains (make sure they will fit your tires before buying them) and test putting them on and taking them off at least twice. Yes, it’s an annoying process, but well worth the effort the first time you have to use them in frigid, snowy conditions and find yourself a competent master of their use.
• Always keep the gas tank full. Not only is running out of gas on a lonely winter road a bad thing, but the less gas in your tank, the more chance for water condensation to form. That water can eventually find its way into your car’s fuel lines, where it may freeze up, causing all sorts of problems, such as your turning your car into the kind of car that doesn’t turn on.
• Pack an emergency kit including, at the minimum, jumper cables, flares and/or reflectors, a blanket, some water, gloves, and spare socks. (If snow or rain gets into your shoes, these will be worth their weight in saffron. FYI, saffron is crazy expensive.)
• Pack a bag of rock salt or a box of kitty litter in the trunk; both are excellent for getting traction on packed snow or ice when your tires alone are spinning uselessly, like yet another trapped rat running mindlessly in its little wheel.
Now get out there and enjoy the winter weather, y0u well-prepared little scamp!
Unless you’re in Florida, that is. In that case, good luck with those terrifying lizard creatures you somehow take in stride.