Preparing is saving: 11 ways to winterize your car

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Preparing is saving: 11 ways to winterize your car
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Is your car ready for winter? 

According to car experts, there are a few things you should do to prepare your car for winter in order to avoid costly repairs later. Not to mention, taking steps to winterize your vehicle can make it safer, too! 

11 easy tips to keep your car running smoothly in winter weather

1. Check your battery.

When the weather gets cold, batteries tend to bite the dust! For example, in Michigan, about 24% of AAA service calls during the winter are due to battery problems.

If your battery is 3-5 years old, it’s a good time to test it, since most batteries last about 5 years. Many auto parts stores will check your battery for free, but you can also buy a battery tester for about $35. 
 

2. Keep an emergency kit in your car.

It’s a good idea to keep an emergency kit in your car in case of the unexpected. The list might include: a flash light, bottled water, a first aid kit, some non-perishable food and jumper cables. 

For a more in-depth list, see 15 must-have items for your emergency survival kit.

Read more: Get through extreme weather with the best emergency gear
 

3. Get an oil change. 

There are varying opinions when it comes to how often someone should get an oil change for their car. Mechanics say every 3,000 miles, but a couple of years ago, a Consumer Reports study found no noticeable difference in engine protection whether you changed the oil every 3,000 miles or 7,500 miles. 

This leaves the decision up to you, but you should definitely think about getting an oil change before facing bad winter weather if you haven’t gotten one in a while. You should also check your car’s owner’s manual for specific guidance from the manufacturer.

Read more: How often should you change the oil in your car?

4. Check your tire pressure and consider snow tires.

If you live in an area with ice and snow, snow tires might be a very good investment — especially if it is a safety hazard not to have them. 

Checking tire pressure is something you should do on a regular basis, but especially when the seasons change — since cold weather makes tires contract, and hot weather makes the air in the tires expand. Optimal tire pressure can actually save you money in gas! 

In order to check your tire pressure, you can either buy a tire pressure gauge for about $15, or go to an automotive store that will check tire pressure for free. 

Check your car manual for the optimal tire pressure for your car, and be sure to check the tires when the car is cold – not after it has been running as the hot air makes the air in the tires expand. 

Bridgestone tire education specialist Chris Welty cautions against letting air out of your tires to try to improve traction. ‘That’s a common winter myth,’ he said, and can also be dangerous. 

Read more: If you have a new car, it may not have a spare tire

5. Check tire tread.

This is something else that should be done regularly — checking tire tread. 

How to do it? Use a penny and place it in the tread. If you can see Lincoln’s head in it’s entirety, it’s time for new tires.

Modern tires have a tread wear indicator also. You can Google your tire type to learn how your tires work, and when to change them. 
 

6. Have the brakes checked.

Nothing can be as serious as brakes that fail – especially during winter! 

Go to a reputable tire and brake shop to make sure your brake are good to go — (or stop, as it were.)
 

7. Keep your gas tank partially full.

Drivers should keep their gas tanks partially full to decrease the chances of moisture forming in the gas lines and freezing.  

Read more: Why you shouldn’t let your gas tank run this low
 

8. Check the fluids.

If you’re on a tight budget, this might be your best winter investment. Checking the fluids can keep them from thickening and causing problems in your car. 

An antifreeze flush is also a good idea. Generally this should be done every 3-5 years depending on how much the vehicle is driven.

Also, during freezing temps, you can purchase washer fluid that doesn’t freeze, or add a little bit of rubbing alcohol to prevent the washer fluid from freezing. 

Adding heat fuel additive to your gas tank can keep your fuel lines from freezing up, but you typically would only need to do this if you live in a location where the weather stays below freezing for days at a time.  
 

9. If you’re due for a tune up, make sure you get it done by winter!

Cold weather can magnify any existing issues with your car, and can lead to costly repairs. Be sure to take your car to a reputable repair shop to have a tune up done.

Read more: Mobile mechanic service lets you skip the repair shop
 

10. Make sure your wiper blades work. 

This small investment can make a world of difference in a winter storm. Be sure you get good wiper blades that can withstand the weather conditions where you live!
 

11. Make sure heaters and defrosters are working.

This sounds like a given, but it makes sense to check them before you get in a storm or go out into extremely cold weather. You might also want to check your tail lights to be sure those are working for your safety, too. 

Watch: 10 cars that will almost certainly last 200,000 miles

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