2014 has been a very brutal winter throughout most of the US. If you did not plan on a harsh winter in your area but Mother Nature had other plans you may want to read this post. Male, Female, young or old we could all use a refresher when it comes to winterizing our cars. Don’t fear even though Jack Frost keeps blasting with his wind we can still keep our cars in working condition.
The tread on your tires should never fall below 1/16 of an inch in depth. If you regularly drive on slick, wet surfaces, you’d be even better off with twice that much. You can buy a gauge to measure the tread depth the way the professionals do, but there’s an old trick that will give you a rough idea of how much tread depth you have left and it won’t cost you more than a penny.
Take a Lincoln-head penny, the kind you find in your change every day, and insert Abe’s head (head-down) into the tread. If Lincoln’s entire head remains visible, you don’t have enough tread. Take your car into the mechanic and ask about getting a new set of tires. It’s up to you and your budget what kind of tires you select.
Look for tracks or cuts in the sidewall, grooves that are distinct enough to be visible to the naked eye. This could be a sign that your tire is developing a leak or worse, that it’s nearly ready to blow out. Again take your car into the mechanic and have them checked.
The cold is very hard on car batteries. In years past I’ve had a newer battery and it still did not survive the winter. Other years my battery has been old and it did just fine. Some important things to look at when checking your battery are, the battery itself, cables, terminals, and fluids. To read the level of charge in your battery you will need to turn off the engine. Some batteries have a built in hydrometer eye that will tell you the amount of voltage remaining in the battery. You can also use a handheld hydrometer to get the information if your battery does not have it.
So, is your battery able to endure the winter weather? Compare its voltage with these figures:
- 12.6V to 12.8V: full charge
- 12.2V to 12.4V: half charge
- 11.8V to 12.0V: discharged
While you’re inspecting your battery, look around for the manufacture date. Knowing how old your battery is can help you to know when it will begin to lose charge. If you find you need a new battery never buy one with a six-month-old manufacture date. I have read this on multiple sites and have had mechanics tell me this.
Engine Oil in the Winter
The oil in your engine changes depending on how hot or cold the engine is running. Because the outside temperatures will influence the internal temperature of your engine, you need to make sure you’re using the proper oil for the conditions.
During the winter months, if you live where temperatures get below freezing, you’ll want to switch over to thinner―less viscous―oil. If you run a 10W-30 in the summer, for example, try moving to a 5W-30 when changing your oil in the fall or winter. If you are in doubt, refer to your manual or the manufacturer. Again your mechanic can guide you what products are the best. I like to know what I’m talking about prior to my mechanic visit as I don’t want to be the ‘dumb’ female that gets taken advantage of. I do not mean that women are ‘dumb’ in any way shape or form but I do know that some places will take advantage of women if they can.
You car’s coolant system is not intended only to keep your engine from overheating. It is also responsible for protecting your valuable engine against corrosion. Before the weather gets too cold, make sure you are using coolant with ethylene glycol to help protect your engine.
Every vehicle requires a certain ratio of coolant to water, and your owner’s manual or repair technician can explain what your engine needs. For most vehicles, a winter ratio is 60% coolant to 40% water. Adjusting this ratio is an important step in winterizing your car, so if you need help, ask someone who is experienced and knowledgeable.
If you don’t already have an emergency kit in your car, consider putting together a few basics and stowing them in the trunk. Naturally, you’ll want to be sure your spare tire is in good shape with all the tools to change it out. But you might also want a few other emergency items in case you slide off the road and get stuck in a snow bank:
- Engine oil
- Washer fluid
- Non perishable snacks
When you take the time to winterize your car, you become more comfortable driving in cold, snowy climates. A short commute quickly becomes difficult when your vehicle isn’t equipped to handle snow and ice. By planning ahead, you can make winterizing your vehicle an annual ritual in the name of safety and vehicle reliability.