Winter/Snow Driving Preps, Part 1 of 3, Prepping Your Vehicle

Here in Utah, Winter is finally upon us! This generally means we get to share the road with a bunch of inexperienced snow drivers who think it’s safer, not more dangerous, to drive 15 miles an hour on the freeway. Hopefully, all those people will read this post and we’ll fix the I15 problem right here and now! Yeah right. But for you, dear reader, I offer some advice on how to prep your vehicle for winter, what to stash in your vehicle and some driving tips. Hopefully you’ll have some sage advice to add to this in the comments. This is the first of 3 posts in this series.

First of all, if you don’t have a 4 wheel drive then go buy one today, the auto companies need your business! :) I know that’s not a realistic suggestion, but seriously, if you don’t have a 4 wheel drive and you have the means to do so, please get one, you’ll be so much safer!

No matter what type of vehicle you’re driving, there are several things you can/should do to make sure that it’s at its peak performance in 3 inches of slush and ice.

  1. Put on fresh wipers. You may not need it right now, but wipers can get hammered quickly when they’re constantly wiping the snow, salt, sand and other junk that the car in front of you is covering your windshield with! By putting fresh ones on you’ll be sure they can hold up through the winter – nothing sucks worse than suddenly being blind in icy conditions because your crappy wipers can’t clean off your windshield!
  2. Make sure your tires are good – not decent, not just still living, but GOOD. You do not want crappy tread in ice conditions! Make sure that your drive wheels have good deep treads on them! If you haven’t rotated your tires for a while, this is also a good time to do that, assuming that doesn’t put crappy tires on the front :) if it does, refer to the beginning of this item!
  3. Flush your radiator and load it with anti-freeze (50/50 anti-freeze and water is recommended). Have you ever noticed your heater quit heating when your vehicle is idle? If so, you’re radiator is very low on water/anti-freeze. By flushing it and loading it with anti-freeze you’ll be ensuring that your vehicle is running as coolly as it can.
  4. Have your battery checked – Autozone and Checker will do this for you for free. If your battery can’t sustain a load you may have problems starting it in the mornings on very cold/snowy days. Replace your battery if needed.
  5. Change your oil and oil filter. Fresh clean oil will help protect your engine in very cold times. Cold temperatures cause your oil to thicken up, making it harder to pump and lubricate. During the summer, we typically use 40 weight oil (10w40) but in the winter we need the lighter, 30 weight oil (10w30). Check your vehicle’s manual for the correct winter weight. Using the wrong one can damage your engine.
  6. Check your belts. Very cold temperatures are hard on belts, if the belts on your vehicle are cracking either replace them or have someone else do it! You don’t want to lose a belt on the freeway when there’s a couple inches of snow on the ground.
  7. Make sure you windshield wiper fluid is a de-icer type and is topped off – in fact, do this on a very regular basis. We use quite a bit of fluid keeping the windshield clean, especially after a snowstorm when cars are throwing water and gunk on your windshield. Once you’ve topped off your reservoir, throw a full bottle of fluid in the back, you’ll likely need it at the worst time.
  8. Chains – if you don’t have chains for your vehicle, you should consider getting them. If you do have them, make sure you put them in your car! Now is also a good time to practice putting them on to refresh your memory, in a foot of snow and ice on a cold day is NOT the time to figure out how your chains work!!!

There are several other things you can do to help your car perform its best for you during the winter, these are what I consider the MOST important. You can either do it yourself or pull into Jiffy Lube and have them do it for a couple hundred bucks – it’ll be worth it.

Be sure to read part two of this series – what you should add to your car survival kit for winter – and part three – tips for driving in the snow.  If you think something else should be on this list, let us know!

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