How to Prep Your Car for Winter Weather

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One moment you’re all T-shirt and sunglasses. The next, you’re Googling snow-scraping hacks for your windshield. (Hint: don’t use boiling water — that could cause it to crack.)

Now’s a good time to prep your car for winter weather, especially if you live in a snow-prone area. This will ensure it continues to run safely and survive seasonal mayhem. Here are six ways to ready your ride this winter.

1. Top Off Your Fluids

First things first: park your car on a level surface and wait till the engine’s cool. Then, start with the oil. Remove the dipstick, wipe it clean with a rag and re-insert it. That’ll give it a better read. If the oil’s low, add more — and be sure to consult your owner’s manual for the correct amount.

Next check your coolant. That’s the plastic container near the radiator. If the liquid’s above the “Full” line, you’re good to go. If not, you’ll need to add more. The winter ratio is usually 60 percent anti-freeze and 40 percent water. If you live in a really cold place, you may want your ratio closer to 70/30.

Finally, think about replacing your windshield washer fluid with a more alcohol-heavy formula. Special winter mixtures can help prevent freezing.

2. Winterize Your Wheels

As temps continue to dip, make sure to rotate or replace your tires. If you live in a snowy area, you’ll also want tread that can bite into snow. Snow tires are a great option. They offer quality road-grip and suppleness under changing pressures. One caveat: because of these characteristics, they tend to have faster tread-wear compared to all-season tires.

Then there’s tire pressure. Recommendations for pounds per square inch (PSI) are usually located in the driver’s side doorjamb. Most cars are around 30 to 35 PSI. Note too that for every 10-degree change in temps, your tires could lose or gain a pound of pressure, so be sure to check them throughout the season.

3. Check on the Battery

Car batteries typically don’t do well in cold weather, and summer months can be taxing on them too. So if it’s been a while, swap yours for a new one. The rule of thumb’s usually every three years, but some it might be more like five to seven. Again, consult your manual — and have jumper cables on standby too, just in case.

4. Schedule a Brake Inspection

Good brakes are the lifeline of lifelines — particularly under inclement conditions. Schedule a brake inspection, and if you hear squeaking or scraping when engaging the brakes, get them replaced stat! Those pads are overdue.

When it comes to brake fluid, advice can run somewhat vague. Some say brake fluids should be flushed and replaced every two years. Others recommend every 30,000 miles. Some manufacturers don’t even mention brake fluids in their maintenance schedules. That said, erring on the side of caution and having yours checked by a pro never hurts.

5. Revisit Your Insurance Coverage

Car insurance is a contingency plan. If all else fails despite your best efforts, it can save you from a heap of troubles. Most obvious is making sure you have roadside assistance. Whether through AAA or your insurer, it can be a lifesaver if you ever hit a snow bank and find yourself marooned on the highway.

Finally, check with your insurer that you have comprehensive and collision coverage. Together they cover your car against a wide array of hazards — collisions, fallen trees, vandalism, hail damage. If you have them already, you might also consider increasing their coverage limits.

Lastly, keep your car stocked with supplies, including extra blankets, a flashlight, and a spare phone charger. And most important of all, stay safe out there.

Evan Brown is a copywriter at Esurance, where he focuses primarily on simplifying the confusing, jargon-filled language of insurance. He’s also written a number of articles on autonomous cars and big data — especially how they’re slated to impact the insurance industry. You can find out more about car insurance and other Esurance products at their website.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or view of Intuit Inc, Mint or any affiliated organization.

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