Did you ever wish your vehicle came with an easy to understand list or step by step instructions to prepare for winter driving? If you don’t want to read through your 100 page owners’ manual, then simply print this one!
8 Steps to Get Your Vehicle Ready for Illinois Winters
- Have your tires inspected. Your automotive technician can measure the tread left (new tires have 11/32, but the minimum legal limit is 3/32) and advise you if there are other concerns- punctures, incorrect air pressure, dry rotting, etc. You may also choose to put on winter tires. With quality tires on your vehicle, braking, acceleration and handling while driving on slippery roads will be much safer for you and your family
- Have your battery tested. The average car battery lasts 3-5 years, so it may be time to replace it before the cold weather starts. The battery can be tested for CCA (cold cranking amps) and compared to the CCA of a new battery, thus determining if replacement is necessary. Also, the battery posts and connections should be free of corrosion.
- Belts and hoses should be free of cracks and not dry rotted. Cold weather can be hard on these components, so have them inspected and replaced if needed
- Use the proper antifreeze mixture. Antifreeze cools the engine which protects it from freezing and is the key to providing heat inside the vehicle. Using a 50/50 blend of antifreeze and water inside the radiator is optimum and will help you avoid breakdowns. If the coolant protection level is incorrect, you can have a cooling system flush to adjust the system and keep it operating in the way the manufacturer intended.
- Turn on the heater and defroster in the vehicle and make sure they work and the vents are clear of debris and functioning properly. If they aren’t your windshield may ice up inside and out and you may be cold when driving this winter. By doing this before the winter weather starts, you have plenty of time to have these items fixed if needed.
- Check your visibility. Turn on your wipers and squirt with the washer solvent. Do the wipers clear the windshield properly? Does the washer solvent spray correctly on the window? If not, have the wiper blades replaced and have the washer inspected or check the amount of solvent in the reservoir. Never use plain water, it will freeze on the windshield.
- Clean your vehicle inside and out. Have the exterior washed and waxed which will help prevent rust and chipping paint. It will also make it easier to brush off the snow and ice. Remove any debris from inside the vehicle and vacuum the seats and floor. Dust the dashboard and wash the windows. You may want to add a car freshener too. Are the floor mats in need of cleaning or replacement? You will help maintain the resale value of your vehicle by keeping it clean (and you will feel better about it too!)
- Prepare an emergency kit. I recommend the following items be in your winter survival kit (or placed in your trunk):
- A spare tire with air in it
- Tire changing equipment
- Extra windshield washer fluid and paper towels
- A bag of abrasive material such as sand, salt or non-clumping kitty litter which can provide weight in the back of the vehicle as well as added traction if a tire gets stuck in the snow
- A flashlight and a first aid kit (flares are optional)
- Small tool kit or Leatherman-style tool and jumper cables (print instructions on how to jump a car if you are unfamiliar with the process- if this is done incorrectly it can cause VERY expensive repairs)
- A snow brush with scraper and a shovel (some of these fold for easy storage and are handy if a tire is stuck)
- Blanket and extra warm clothing (scarves, gloves, hat, boots) in case you break down and need to walk or wait for help to arrive
- High protein non-perishable foods such as protein bars, trail mix, raisins and water
- Contact information of people to be called in case of an emergency (including a good towing service)
By taking a little extra time now and preparing for the winter months ahead, you and your vehicle will have a much better chance of NOT breaking down in the cold and being stranded.