Brace yourselves, winter is coming! Not just talking about snow, black ice, and gale force winds here, but also lingering issues with your vehicle that went unnoticed in the warmer temps. That said, let’s examine a combination of hazards, and how to be ready for them.
If your current car battery is 3-5 years old, you should consider replacing it before the coldest weather hits. According to AAA’s Automotive Research Center, “At zero degrees Fahrenheit, a car’s battery loses about 60 percent of its strength. At 32 degrees Fahrenheit, a battery is 35 percent weaker.” If your car doesn’t start, and the temperature is in the teens, you’ll be kicking yourself for not thinking of it sooner.
Frail Fan and Serpentine Belts
Most engines utilize belts to drive multiple systems, including the alternator, water pump, etc., and these belts are typically made of rubber for flexibility and durability. However, in cold temps rubber can crack, and if a belt snaps, it can cause serious troubles for your engine. Have your belts checked in the late summer for existing cracks, before the cold weather makes matters worse.
This seems like a no-brainer, but that term takes on new meaning when you forget to refill the levels of all engine fluids in your car. Of all the fluids in your car, antifreeze is one of the most important for managing cold temperatures. Your car uses a combination of water and antifreeze to both keep your engine cool in hot weather, and to prevent water from freezing in cold climates. If water freezes in your engine, it could lead to a crack in your engine. Replacing critical parts of your engine can be costly, so utilize this simple step to help prevent paying for it later.
Tire pressure variance in cold weather is inevitable. As mentioned above with rubber belts, your rubber tires also contract in cold weather. This slows down the normal oxygen exchange of porous rubber and can cause your tires to be under-inflated. According to the Chicago Tribune, “A temperature change of just 10 degrees can cause a ten percent reduction, or constriction, of air in tires.” Moral of the story: Check your tire pressure often in cold weather, and heed the warnings on your dashboard if the low tire pressure light comes on.
Kitty Litter on the Driveway
Kitty litter is relatively cheap, and is designed to absorb liquids. This can come in handy when a fresh layer of thin snow has been deposited on your driveway over night. The basic idea is to sprinkle some behind your back or front tires, depending on your drivetrain, to help your tires gain traction from a standstill. Kitty litter can easily be stored in the trunk, and can be used again and again in inclement weather.
Watch the News and the Internet for Warnings
Finally, be informed. If the news is telling you your local authorities are advising against going out, stay home. If it isn’t an emergency, let the weather pass for making a decision that may affect your family and friends. It just isn’t worth the risk.
Be safe this winter, and have a great holiday season!