As the weather grows colder and we all take time to enjoy the festivities of autumn, it’s important to remember to prepare for the coming winter ahead.
One key staple of this preparation is knowing what to expect and look for in making sure your vehicle can handle the months of cold and snow to get you places safely and on time. Gregory Studelska, a five-year senior master technician at Herb Green Ford, has several tips on what to watch out for.
Tires are one of the most important parts of a good winterized car when it comes to maintaining control on icy roads. According to Studelska, tread and air pressure are the two key factors to check before the roads get slick, with tread being judged by its tire industry measurement standard measured in one thirty-second of an inch (1/32) increments.
“Once the snow flies you want to have good adequate tread depth. If they’re getting to three or four/32, you’re going to want to start thinking about replacing it. Most passenger tires start anywhere from nine to 10/32s, so if they get that low you need new ones. That way, you get good traction surface for driving in the snow.
“You also need proper air pressure with the cold weather. If it’s getting down your light might come on. The sign on your door jamb tells you what your tires should be at when it’s cold.”
Studelska recommends checking tires once a month when it’s cold and said the tools to do so are available at most dealerships or gas stations.
“A lot of your parts stores will have an air-pressure gauge people can check. If they need air pressure, the dealership can put air in them or some of your gas stations have an air compressor outside you can use to fill up if need be.”
Studelska said cooling systems should be checked to prevent freezing and keep the engine running smoothly.
“You always want to make sure that’s up to par for freeze protection. We do get some cold weather around here and your cooling system keeps your engine cool but also provides heat for your cab in the wintertime. You want to make sure that’s full.”
Visibility often becomes harder during the winter months with frost and snow on the windshields, so Studelska advises checking the condition of windshield wipers before they’re needed.
“You don’t think much about them until you use them and see they’re streaking. Keep the snow off your windshield. You can check your wiper blade by running your hand down it and feeling to make sure there are no chunks taken out of it or that they’re not hanging down. If they’re hanging you’ll want to replace them.”
Another factor of good visibility is ensuring all lights are working for the purposes of both seeing and being seen as more of the day becomes dark.
“You always want to check your lights. If it’s snowing out you should have your lights on. If you have a headlight out, you can’t see very well and other people can’t see you either.”
Of course, visibility isn’t much good if the car won’t start due to a dead battery. Studelska said a good way to check on the health of the battery is to be aware of delays in the car starting or a change in the sound it makes.
“You hate to go out on a Monday morning, start your car, let it warm up for a minute, and realize it doesn’t start because you have a dead battery. If anyone notices the car starting to turn over a little slower when they go to start it, you might want to get that checked out. If it’s slow or doesn’t sound normal, you could have a weak battery.”
As a final note, Studelska said that uncleared sludge and ice buildup can take a toll on the underside of the car, such as the suspension and CV boot on drive axles. He also noted that cold will cause oil to run slower at first and that drivers should be aware of a decrease in fuel efficiency as the car uses more to overcome winter obstacles.
“People are probably going to see a drop in fuel economy as they fire up the cars and let them warm for a bit before they go, which uses gas. It also takes more gas in the winter for vehicles to run, so you’ll see a slight decrease but nothing to be concerned about.”