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How to Best Prepare Your Car for Winter

Maintenance is very important to keep your car running in tip-top shapes. This is especially true during the winter months. Winter not only taxes you car’s electrical system, but it can also kill your car’s battery in no time flat. Cold weather also places demands on everything from your car’s cooling system to it’s motor oil. Therefore, it is important to make sure winter maintenance is done periodically throughout the season. Here are some tips to keep your car running at peak performance when cold weather rolls around.

1. Battery

The first thing that needs to be done is to make sure the battery is clean and free of corrosion. Not only the contacts and posts of the battery, but also the exterior battery walls. The outside of the battery can be cleaned with a damp rag and a little elbow grease. The contacts and posts can be cleaned with a mixture of baking soda and water. After you have cleaned the battery make sure that the terminals are tight and apply a little bit of petroleum jelly to them to prevent future corrosion.

You should also check the battery acid level as well. This can be done by gently prying up the top panels and taking a peek. If the acid level is low, then correct the problem by adding some distilled water to it.

2. Antifreeze

Not only do you have to make sure that your car’s antifreeze level is where it should be, but you should also check the quality of the antifreeze. If it is cloudy, dirty or rusty looking, then it should be immediately replaced. It should also be replaced if it hasn’t been changed in the past two years.

You should also check to make sure that you use a 50/50 ratio of water to antifreeze in your car. If you use premixed solutions this isn’t a problem, but if you mix it yourself you need to remember two things. One, only use distilled water in the mixture and check the concentration with an antifreeze tester.

3. Heater and Radiator Hoses

Now its time to check the heater hose. You should visually inspect it for any signs of wear and tear. After you have done this, turn on your heater and reinspect the heater hose. If it leaks, then it needs to be replaced.

You also need to check your radiator hoses. You should make sure these hoses are free from cracks or splits and that the radiator hoses aren’t soft to the touch. You should also check for swollen parts of the hoses or obvious signs of leakage. If any of these exists, then the radiator hoses should be replaced.

4. The Heater

Your heater should be checked before the start of the season to ensure it is in good working condition. If your heater doesn’t work, then a number of problems could be the culprit. It could be a loose or leaking heater hose, a bad thermostat or a bad heater core.

If the heater hose is in good condition and the heat still doesn’t work, then you should check the thermostat next. This can be done by removing it from the car and placing it in a pot of water. Making sure it doesn’t come in contact with the sides or bottom, slowly begin to heat the water to 190 degrees. When the water reaches this temperature it should open. If it doesn’t, then it is faulty and needs to be replaced.

If the heater hose and thermostat is good and you still don’t have heat, then you probably have a faulty heater core. This can be easily replaced by a certified mechanic.

5. Belts

You should also check your belts to make sure that they are free from fraying, cracking or splitting. If they are, then replace them.

6. Water Pump

Make sure that there aren’t any signs of leakage around the water pump and replace the pump if there is leakage. You should also try to wiggle the water pump pulley. If it gives o feels loose, then you might have a bad bearing.

Other signs that you have a bad water pump is a grinding sound while the car is running or if the thermostat warning light lights up while it is running.

7. Tires

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Tires should be checked to make sure they have proper tread depth and air pressure. When the temperature is cold, then tire pressure needs to be kept withing 5 PSI of recommended pressure levels. This means you will probably have to check tire pressure several times a day because for every ten degree fluctuation in temperature, then the tires will lose 1 PSI of pressure.

8. Brakes

The entire brake system should be checked. This includes rotors, pads, brake hoses and brake fluid level. The master cylinder should also be checked for defects.

9. Windshield, Wipers And Fluid Levels

The windshield should be checked for pits or cracks which can worsen during cold weather. You should also make sure that the wiper arms are in good condition and make adequate contact with the windshield. Wiper blades should then be checked and replaced if they are worn or older than six month old. After all of this is done, check wiper fluid level and make sure it is adequately filled.

10. Headlights, Turn Signals And Brake Lights

These should all be checked to make sure they are in good condition and working properly. Also make sure that your license plate light is working as well.

11. Defroster

Check your defroster to make sure it works. If it does not, then you should check to make sure the fuse isn’t blown. If this still doesn’t solve your problem, then you might have to have a mechanic check the rear defroster grid or defroster switch for problems.

12. Oil and Oil Filter

Make sure that you change your oil and filter according to manufacturer’s recommendations. Also make sure that you keep enough oil in your vehicle. It is also important to make sure you have the right kind of oil in your vehicle.

13. Gasoline

Always make sure that you have at least a half a gallon of gas in your car at all times. Failure to do this can cause many different problems. It makes your fuel pump work harder and can cause condensation to form in the tanks. Condensation can cause fuel injector problems or cause your fuel lines to freeze.

14. Properly Stock Your Car

Below are some things you should carry in your car during the winter season.

A. For Traction

  • Sand or Cat litter
  • Salt
  • Rug Pieces

B. Tools

  • Automotive tool kit
  • Emergency winter kit
  • Tire patch kit
  • Lock defroster
  • Spare tire and tire iron
  • Shovel
  • Extra serpentine belt
  • Antifreeze
  • Oil

C. Miscellaneous

  • Cell phone charger
  • Water
  • Snacks
  • Blankets
  • Warm Clothing

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