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How To Winterize Your Car

Guide to winterizing your vehicle for safety, maximum life and efficiency.

Well, it's autumn again and we all know what that means - old man winter is knocking on the door. Now is the time to winterize your car so you can count on it to start when you need it to and run at peak efficiency.

Winterizing an automobile is really a fairly simple task when you take it step-by-step. Here is the procedure in a nutshell:

  1. Anti-Freeze - Your car's anti-freeze/coolant is the second most important fluid after motor oil, but in the colder months it takes on an even more important role.

    First and foremost, anti-freeze keeps your car's engine block, radiator and hoses from freezing up and bursting when the temperature drops below 32 degrees. It also contains essential chemicals that prevent engine corrosion and help lubricate the water pump.

    These chemicals break down and lose most of their effectiveness over time. You should change the anti-freeze in your car every 30,000 miles or 2 years (whichever comes first), so if you didn't change it last year you need to do it now.

    If you don't need to change your anti-freeze, simply check the fluid level and top it off according to the instructions in your vehicle's owner's manual.
  2. Engine Oil - Most auto manufacturers recommend using different oils in summer and winter so an important part of winterizing your car is making sure you change the oil to the grade recommended for cold weather. Heavy weight oil makes a vehicle "turn over" more slowly when it's cold. This in turn makes the car harder to start.

    If you're due for an oil change anyway, great. Just use the proper grade of oil. If you aren't due an oil change, you should probably go ahead and change it anyway to make sure you don't forget about it.
  3. Battery - The most common cause of a breakdown or failure to start during the winter months by far is a weak battery. Batteries lose their ability to hold a charge over time, and if yours is more than a year old you should have it tested at your auto center (most will test your battery for free).

    If you happen to live in a cold climate, you should consider replacing your car's battery with one that is rated one step higher (in cold cranking amps) than what the owner's manual calls for.
  4. Tires - Ice and snow can make winter driving a treacherous proposition, so making sure your vehicle has a fresh set of snow tires is very important if you live in an area that receives snow and ice. Additionally, if your area receives deep snows, I strongly recommend keeping a working pair of tire chains in your trunk.

    If you live in a warmer locale you can probably get by with a good set of all-weather tires. All-weather tires do well on wet and dry roads while providing a measure of extra traction on light snow.

    You should also check the tread depth of your tires and replace them if they are more than 1/2 worn out. Even the best brand of snow tires will do little good if most of the tread has worn off! And make sure that your tires have the recommended air pressure.
  5. Heating/Defrosting System - Autumn is always the best time to check your heating and defrosting system for proper operation - waiting until winter can mean having to peer through a foggy windshield and having to do repairs in sub-freezing temperatures. Check out your heating system now before you need it!

Most people don't think about winterizing their vehicles until the first really cold weather hits, and sometimes it costs them in more ways than one. Take the time to prepare your car for winter now and you can drive with confidence when the thermometer inevitably takes a nosedive!

About the Author:

Rick Rouse is the owner of RLROUSE Directory & Informational Resources.

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