Ah, winter: the glistening snow, the kids sledding…and that stupid car that won't start! Take some precautions to keep your car running smoothly during the colder months.
Step 1: Get checked Hit the service station for an oil change and a tune-up. Ask them to flush the cooling system and replace the antifreeze, service the battery, check the lights, heater and defroster, brakes, belts and hoses, and the tires. Your tires may run lower than usual in winter, so have them checked periodically.
TIP: Consider investing in snow tires, which are better on slick surfaces than all-season tires.
Step 2: Pack a kit Pack a winter survival kit, including a blanket, small snow shovel, ice scraper, flashlight, safety flares, boots and gloves, energy bars, and water.
Step 3: Get cat litter and jumper cables If you have rear-wheel drive, keep a bag of cat litter in the trunk: the weight will help with traction, and if you get stuck in snow you can spread the litter around the stuck tires for added traction. Keep them in your trunk because batteries can conk out in the cold.
Step 4: Check your spare Make sure you have a good spare tire in the car as well as all the equipment to change it -- or that you keep your cell phone charged so someone can come help you.
TIP: Consider investing in a car charger if you don't already have one.
Step 5: Get winter wipers Get winter wiper blades. They cost about $10, and they're well worth it: The rubber or plastic covering over the wipers keeps them flexible and prevents them from freezing.
Step 6: Add windshield fluid Add winter-grade solvent windshield washer fluid, which will not freeze unless you're in extreme conditions. Not only does a frozen washer tank mean you can't wipe away snow or rain, it can also damage the pumping system, requiring a costly trip to the repair shop.
TIP: Keep your gas tank as full as possible during the winter months so the gas line doesn't freeze.
Step 7: De-ice your locks Auto parts stores sell glycerin for de-icing your locks. Squirt it into the exterior locks to prevent them from freezing. And be sure to keep your de-icer outside your car; it doesn't do much good if it's inside and you can't get in!
FACT: Did you know? You don't need to idle your car on cold winter days; with modern engines, the best way to warm it up is to simply drive it!