Brrr....you felt that cold chill zip past your face just now. Face it, winter's coming soon, and temperatures around Minnesota will fall to bone-chilling levels. And not only will you have to bundle up your body, you'll also have to make sure your car is ready for the onslaught of freezing cold temperatures, snow, and sleet.
Cars are more prone to cold weather, especially when left out for cold overnights. The engines are harder to start, they take longer to warm up and consistently cold starts could be harmful over the long term for your car.
Car manufacturers have made great advancements in technology in newer cars that help the winter driving experience. With technologies like multi-link rear suspension, sharp steering and electronic differential locks for slippery conditions, new cars have an advantage over used cars from five to 10 years ago. Other advancements in new cars include all-wheel driving systems, enhanced driving dynamics and skid-management systems.
Used cars, in comparison, have to rely on tried and true preventative measures for safer winter driving. As drivers get ready for winter, the standard responsibilities that drivers need to do for your car, like making sure you change the oil and filters, double check the belts, hoses and tire pressures, and get your anti-freeze mixture just right (experts suggest a 50-50 mix of coolant and water) to prevent the mixture from freezing.
Obviously, there are certain things that you should just have, without a doubt, in your automobile this winter:
- Keep an emergency kit in your car. Pack up an ice scraper (a good one with a brush attached is recommended), carry a flashlight, have an extra pair of gloves or a warm zip up to keep you warm if the heat isn't working properly
- Check your four-wheel drive system before the winter snows start to fall. Your car or SUV can gain traction on snow or ice from a non-moving position, helping to avoid getting stuck in snow or ice ruts.
- Keep your gas tank at least 3/4 full. Without a full tank in sub-zero temperatures, there is a good chance of condensation forming within a near-empty gas tank. Water then can drip down into the gas, and eventually can freeze up. If water finds its way into the fuel lines, it will freeze up, blocking any flow of gas to your engine. Not good.
- Check wipers and wiper fluids. Seeing where you're driving in snow, sleet and freezing rain is crucial to winter driving needs. Car bible guide Edmunds suggests to check your wipers and replace as needed. Plus, having a de-icing wiper fluid can be an extra benefit toward good visibility for your auto.
- Use snow tires in snow country. It's a fact that snow tires offer improved traction, braking and control in wintry conditions. If you can afford to buy a set for the winter, it's recommended to do so. If a new set of snow tires isn't in the winter budget, keep a bag of road salt in your car. If your car is stuck in snow or ice, a handful or two of salt thrown under your tires should give them the grip and traction necessary to move forward.
Besides these helpful tips above, automaker Ford offers up top ways to prepare your car for winter. Whether you drive a used Ford or a 2012 Mercedes Benz, these are good guidelines below on prepping your car for winter's cruel season.
- Keep your windows visible. The first and best thing a car owner should do after a snow storm is to clear the windows and body of the car with a scraper and brush (or soft shovel if necessary). If you only clear the windshield and the back and side windows, you run the risk of snow falling from the top of your car in a sudden stop, obscuring your vision.
- Use winterized windshield wiper fluid to make sure your wiper sprayer doesn’t freeze over or crack, preventing you from washing away dirt and salt. Again, visibility rules when dealing with other cars' tire spray of water and salt. Ford suggests to not use hot water to unfreeze ice or snow from your windshield. Using hot water can crack the windshield.
- Use better driving instincts in the winters. Slow down, double the amount of space in slippery conditions that you'd normally use, and be aware of cars fishtailing or skidding behind you.
- If your vehicle starts to skid, take your foot off the accelerator, gradually turn your vehicle in the direction you are skidding and gently apply steady pressure to your vehicle's brakes. Ford suggests not to pump the brakes, as this action may cause you to lose control of the vehicle. Anti-lock brakes do help to maintain control in slick winter conditions, but they generally don't shorten the stopping distance.
- Stay alert! If you're driving in harsh conditions, being overly tired is a contributing factor in more accidents. Of course, lay off drinking and driving, which can contribute to sleepiness at the wheel. But especially in major storm weather driving, sleepiness is another contributor to road accidents.
Anticipating winter's wrath is half the battle for cold-weather drivers. Knowing what to have in your car, how to use it and how to prepare against winter storms will help you survive another potentially threatening car driving season.