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Winter is Coming: Prepping Your Car for Cold Weather

Although winter temperatures in Texas are generally mild in comparison to northern areas of the country, we’ve been known to have a few cold snaps that could leave some drivers unprepared.  Cooler weather will be here before we know it and it’s better to know that your car is ready for the change in temperature before you’re stuck dealing with it on a cold miserable, icy day.  Here are five things you should consider doing before the weather changes.


1.  Check the Battery and Connections

Cold weather can be hard on your car’s battery.  The battery’s capacity can decline greatly with cooler temperatures, and it can lose up at 35% of its power in 32 degree weather.  Getting your battery tested or replacing an older one before the weather changes could save you from a cold morning where your car won’t start.  Also, visually check for corrosion on your battery terminals.  If a white to blue fluffy-looking substance is present, your battery terminals should be cleaned – a bad connection wastes power and can cause weak starts.  Tip: The terminals can be cleaned easily using Diet Coke (NOT regular Coke) and a nylon brush. Next, be aware that most car batteries are designed to last from 3 to 4 years.  If your battery is aging, consider purchasing a new one before winter.


2.  Cooling System

While it may seem counterintuitive to check your car’s cooling system before winter, it could save you trouble once icy temperatures set in.  The cooling system is a common cause for vehicle breakdowns.  Check to make sure that you have enough antifreeze so that the water in your cooling system doesn’t turn into a block of ice when temperatures plummet.  Be sure to check your vehicle’s manual before adding any fluids.  For DIYers, pre-mixed antifreeze is available at your local auto parts store; ask the clerk which formula is made for your car.


3.  Tires

Sliding on wet pavement is both scary and dangerous.  The two main things to check for safety regarding tires is the depth of the tread left and the inflation.  To maintain the best traction, tires must have enough tread.  A quick and easy test to determine if your tires have enough tread is the penny test.  Insert a penny into the tire’s tread grooves with the top of Lincoln’s head toward the tire.  If you can see the top of his head, you may need to consider buying new tires.  Make sure that your tires are inflated appropriately.  Cold air can lower tire pressure greatly, so it’s important to check the tire pressure regularly and add air per the manufacturer’s recommendations.


4.  Windshield Wipers and Fluid

One of the easiest steps you can do to prepare for inclement weather is to make sure that your windshield wipers are in good working order.  Car experts recommend replacing them every six to twelve months.  If your wipers are leaving streaks or if the rubber is tearing, the sooner they are replaced, the better.  Consider using windshield wiper fluid with de-icer to make clearing frozen windshields easier.  If you frequently have ice on your windshield, special winter wipers that are enclosed in a rubber boot are much easier to keep clear of snow and ice.


5.  Winter – Time to Change the Oil

Many vehicle manufacturers suggest using a lighter viscosity oil for the winter months.  For those cars that have this recommendation, a lighter viscosity oil makes it easier to start your car in colder temperature, and will protect your car against startup wear.  Make sure to read your car’s manual to determine what oil is best for your car.  Going ahead and changing the oil and oil filter while the weather is milder could save you from some uncomfortable time in the winter cold if you decide to do it yourself.  No matter who does the work, having your car in the best shape could make winter a bit easier to handle.


As mentioned earlier, some of these tips may not to apply to Texas’ mild winters. But having this knowledge in your back pocket for cold snaps or even if you’re visiting an area with colder winters could come in handy at some point. You never know when another cold blast may come and it is better to be prepared.

Winter is Coming: Prepping Your Car for Cold Weather
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