Note to Reader 1: So we’ve learned from the previous post that it’s important to keep your ride spick and span during the winter season and that you need to have a great set of snow tires available for your trips around town… In this follow-up post, we’ll be discussing other maintenance tips. Some of which are winter-specific, and other helpful reminders that you should note down and conduct even after the winter season. So, without further ado, I present to you Part II of “Winter Reminders for Every Driver: The Right Maintenance Steps”.
Tip # 3: Keep Your Headlights Clean and Snow-Free As Much As Possible, Even If You Don’t Think You’ll Be Using Them. During the winter season, days generally become shorter. If it’s snowing pretty bad in your area, then you can expect inches of snow to cling to your headlights, limiting your driving visibility greatly. One of the downsides of snowy weather is how your surroundings can become dark as night in a matter of hours—sometimes even just minutes! You’re driving and just minutes after light snow coats your hood, it becomes more and more difficult to see oncoming vehicles. And we all know how difficult it is to trust your brakes when your vehicle is crawling through icy streets. This is why it pays to have fully-functional headlights which you can use during poor visibility conditions. (Fog lights are generally used during the winter, but it pays to have an awesome pair of headlights too.)
Another reason why it pays to clean out your headlights before you travel is that it helps prevent the buildup of snow, sand, salt, and other debris which could cause long-term damage to your headlights. These harmful agents can easily diminish the effectiveness of your headlights in the long run, requiring you to replace both headlight assemblies come spring. Save more by keeping your headlights in tiptop condition instead.
One way you can resist the temptation of ignoring headlight-maintenance during winter is by bringing out your shop rags and towels while you’re still at home. This way, you’ll be reminded to wipe the thin sheet of ice coating your tail lights before you pull off the driveway every morning. Another trick that works for me is to have my squeegee and towel resting on the hood—that way I’ll have zero excuses when it comes to cleaning my headlights.
Tip #4: Try to Keep your Gas Tank Full as Often as Possible. I wouldn’t want to scare you or anything, but seriously, winter is the worst time to run out of gas in the middle of nowhere or miles away from civilization. While summer is the time to hitchhike or walk to the nearest gas station to get some gas for your ride, fewer vehicles are out during the winter season. Unless you’d like to get hypothermia walking to a fuel station that’s miles away from where you’re parked, or waiting in your car with only the heat of your engine keeping your blood passably fluid, I suggest you keep things safe by keeping your fuel tank close to full as often as possible.
Another reminder, if you do get stranded due to engine failure, please don’t keep your engine running and sleep in the confines of your locked and weatherproof car. If you happen to have exhaust leaks, carbon monoxide may seep in—and we all know how carbon monoxide tends to have fatal side effects. I mean, why else would movie stars use it to “off” themselves, right?
Again, avoid this scenario altogether by keeping your tank filled with gas.
Tip #5: Check your Tires for Signs of Wear and Regularly Inspect Your Tire Pressure Levels. Unless you’re driving with brand new snow tires, it’s crucial that you keep your old snow tires in tiptop condition. Now, if snow isn’t really a problem in your area, it still pays to keep your regular tires in great working order. Remember the difference between getting to your destination of choice safely and colliding with an immovable tree or road sign during the course of your travels would have to be your ability to stop completely before collision. Stopping quickly and efficiently requires you to have more than a dependable braking system, it requires excellent tire traction. Check your tire treads to see if your tires are in need of replacing. Also check your wheel alignment—heavy inside wear or outside wear indicates misaligned tires, which is something that you need to address immediately.
Also keep in mind that it’s harder to control your vehicle during winter time, so what you may consider as “normal” tire wear during summer may be disastrous come winter season. According to the National Transportation Safety Board, you need to check each tire’s tread depth to find out if it’s time to replace your worn tires. Usually you need 2/32” of tread depth at the minimum to ensure that all your winter travels are going to be safe. I say, if you notice excessive wear on some parts of your tires—even if not all areas have less than 2/32”, replace your tires immediately. It’s one of the instances where it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Another tire-related tip that you need to keep in mind is periodically inspecting your tire pressure levels. Some people say that cold weather tends to decrease your tire pressure, so once in a while, do take the time to check each of your tires to see which ones are in need of a little more air. Remember, before you pump your tires to the maximum tire pressure allowable, check your tire pressure levels first! Pumping too much air into your tires can result to less traction, which really isn’t much better than driving soft tires.
To find out the right tire pressure levels for your ride, consult your owner’s manual or ask your local mechanic.
Lastly, do make it a point to carry a spare tire along each time you travel. Back that up with a reliable jack, your toolbox, and your owner’s manual in case you ever need a roadside tire change. Because snowy weather tends to affect your driving visibility, it makes it harder for you to spot sharp rocks or debris along the road. In case you end up with a flat, at least you have all the tools you need to install your spare tire.