Winter’s here! And for most of us, it’s sure to be a white Christmas. This may not be the happiest Christmas for everyone, what with all the problems most of us are facing, but the best way to somewhat enjoy the holidays is to make the best out of what we still have—for some good health, for others a great family, others still excellent friends, and I’m hoping that you, like me, are still thankful that you have a car to drive to town with.
For me, the best thing about winter is snow. I usually stay over at my sister’s place with the rest of my family to celebrate the holidays with them. Snow is almost-always present especially during the latter parts of December. So I have to remember to take extra-care of my vehicle and to drive really slowly, or to not drive at all when the streets are icy.
One of the most amusing driving reminders I’ve ever gotten from a close friend is that: “If the roads are wet, drive like it’s snowing. If the streets have snow, then drive like they’re icy. And if the roads are icy, then don’t drive at all.” The cool thing about this tip is that it’s actually a great way to avoid accidents! And while this tip doesn’t just apply to the winter season, it’s more recommended during the colder parts of the year.
We all know that during winter, starting your car is generally harder than usual. Especially if you park it overnight outside your garage where snow can make a car-cicle out of your ride. During winter, inspecting and repairing your vehicle also becomes ten times harder than normal, especially if you don’t have enough room in your garage. When your garage is too small, you’ll have to conduct your auto-check outside your house—and the next thing you’ll know, you’re knee-deep in freezing snow with little or absolutely no access to your chassis components. Car care also becomes a problem, because no amount of outdoor heating methods could prevent the water you use to clean your vehicle from turning into ice upon contact. One way you can keep your ride well-prepared for the winter season is by conducting all the auto checks and maintenance processes before snow falls.
To complete your winter auto checklist, I’ve compiled some of the best tips I’ve gotten in all my years of driving and repairing automobiles. Let’s start this multi-post topic with regular and winter-specific auto maintenance steps.
Winter Car Care and Auto Maintenance Tips
I’d like to start this multi-entry post with basic car maintenance tips and reminders that are generally winter-specific. So without further ado…onto the first tip!
Tip #1: Don’t Forget to Use Snow Tires. If you really need to drive during the snowy weather—meaning your boss won’t let you work from home or you need to travel to your relatives’ place out of town—play it safe by investing in great snow tires. Snow tires help increase traction, making your travels a lot faster and safer. And yes, while having to remount and balance your snow tires every single year can be such a pain in the neck, if you’ve ever driven sans snow tires through icy roads (which I seriously don’t recommend!), you’ll know that these specialized tires can mean the difference between a safe trip and a fatal accident. Be safe and use snow tires.
But if you’re really feeling incredibly lazy, or if you really hate having to remount and rebalance these tires each winter, then one way you can save time (but not money) is by getting your vehicle four steel rims. Take your snow tires and permanently mount them onto the steel rims. This should make it easier for you to install your snow tires, and later remove them when spring comes.
Now I understand that with the recent economic troubles we’re facing, it may be harder for most of us to purchase complete sets of winter tires. While it’s still best to have all four mounted on your car, if you can’t buy four snow tires and you have a two-wheel drive (front wheel drive or rear wheel drive), then two would usually do. Mount your snow tires on the wheels that are directly driven by your vehicle’s engine. If you have an “all-wheel-drive” on your hands, then I’m sorry to say that you need to have FOUR snow tires on your car.
If you don’t have space in your garage for your regular tires, then ask your local garage if they could store your regular tires throughout the winter season. Most tire shops will also charge a small fee for storage. Once winter is done, you can also ask them to store your snow tires until the next Thanksgiving.
Tip #2: Conduct Complete and Thorough Auto Cleaning, And Try to Keep Your Vehicle as Clean As You Can After. The first day you spot snow on the roads or on your roof, make it a point to take the time to clean your car completely (both inside and out!). It’s not just for aesthetic purposes, it’s also to help you keep your driving visibility at its best during the ultra-cold season. Since mirrors have a tendency to fog, keep all your glass surfaces as transparent and clear as possible by scraping away the buildup of snow or ice using an ice scraper or a snowbrush. Your auto lights should also be kept as snow-free as possible. So take the time to remove all traces of ice on your ride at least once a week.
Now that your auto lights and mirrors are snow-free, your work is done, right? Nope! There’s more work to be done, and for good reason. Remove snow from the rest of your ride. You’re probably wondering why you need to clean your ride when all that’s important are your lights and mirrors… well, let’s just say that if you happen to have snow piling up on your roof, sludge could easily make its way down your windshield after you hit the brakes—obscuring your vision and possibly even causing you to collide with an oncoming car. Some states also require vehicles to be ice-free during winter… so you can avoid a ticket by keeping your car as clean as you can all season long.
**Note: The second picture shows a snow tire.