It’s that time of year again when old man winter leaves snowy white presents on the roads and highways, which means it’s time to get those vehicles in tip-top shape.
Even in regions where snow rarely occurs, these are great maintenance and safety tips for keeping your vehicle and you safely on the road.
Here’s where to begin.
Start by checking your vehicle’s glove box for the owner’s manual.
It’s your vehicle’s bible.
If you don’t have a vehicle owner’s manual, search online for a downloadable manual using your vehicle’s year, make and model.
Your owner’s manual helps you locate maintenance points using easy-to-identify symbols and schematics with suggestions for keeping your vehicle properly maintained.
Check your windshield washer fluid level before heading out on the road, especially when inclement weather is in the forecast.
Keep extra washer fluid in the trunk of your vehicle to refill as needed.
Choose a streak-free washer fluid that won’t freeze up in low temperatures.
Windshield washer fluid comes in ready-to-use and concentrated forms.
If you choose the concentrated form, follow the manufacturer’s directions for properly diluting the fluid before filling your windshield washer fluid reservoir.
Inspect, clean and replace worn windshield wiper blades.
Clean residuals left from car cleaning products, road grime, sap and bugs with mild detergent or a cloth dipped in windshield washer fluid.
Elements such as sun, sand, salt, ice and heat damage the rubber on the blades.
Peeling and cracking rubber or squeaking and chattering wiper blades means it’s time to replace them.
Refer to your owner’s manual for instructions for removing and installing new blades.
Most blades snap off and on fairly easily.
Keep a spare tire in the trunk, make sure it’s inflated and carry a jack.
Use the recommended tire pressure to air up your spare and keep all four tires properly inflated.
Under-inflated and over-inflated tires cause tire wear and travel hazards such as blowouts.
For vehicles manufactured in 2003 and after, there is a label affixed inside the driver’s side door jamb which provides proper inflation pressures for your tires and spare.
Check your tires tread for signs of wear.
Tires have built-in treadwear indicators.
When indicators are visible or there are cracks, cords or bulges on your tires, it’s time to change them.
Use the penny test to check tire tread.
If you can see all of Lincoln’s head when you insert the penny in your tire tread with Lincoln’s head facing down, you need new tires.
Depending on weather conditions where you live, you can run all season tires or snow tires on the road.
All season tires are manufactured to perform well in all mild conditions including light snow.
Snow tires are designed for heavy snow, cold temperatures and ice.
There’s a huge difference in the design of each tire.
Choose your tires wisely basing your decision on typical weather conditions in your area.
Extreme cold brings on battery problems.
If you have a weak battery, it’s sure to die when cold temperatures blow in.
Before it leaves you stranded, check your battery’s charge and keep it fully charged, especially if you do a lot of short distance driving.
If your battery dies and leaves you stranded, a set of jumper cables or a jump starter kept in the trunk is a lifesaver.
Jump starters are often preferred over jumper cables since there’s no need to flag down another driver to help jump start your vehicle and your vehicle can be in any position when you jump it.
Just remember to turn off all accessories that draw power from the battery before jump starting, including radio, heater blowers, cell phone chargers and lights.
Maintain your engine’s oil level.
Your owner’s manual provides guidance on properly checking your vehicle’s oil level, when to add oil, how much to add and the recommended SAE thickness that’s best for your engine during cold weather.
Maintain your engine coolant using the maintenance schedule and coolant brand suggested in your vehicle’s manual.
Coolant protects your engine against freezing and overheating.
Add 24-hour roadside assistance to your insurance coverage.
The cost for roadside assistance is surprisingly low and covers you when you run out of gas, need a jump, have a flat, lock yourself out of your vehicle or need your vehicle towed.
Ask your agent about trip interruption insurance to cover meals, lodging and transportation and what, if any, restrictions apply.
Sign up for text message alerts in areas you plan to travel to keep you from blindly driving into slippery messes, delays and closures.
You may need to find an alternative route to your destination or locate hotels in unfamiliar areas when weather makes highways impassible.
Keep your gas tank filled and your cell phone charged.
If you’re stranded in a snowstorm, your vehicle’s engine will provide a heat source only until your gas runs out.
A charged cell phone provides a source of communication enabling you to contact emergency services, such as 24-hour roadside assistance, tow trucks or police and keeps you updated on weather and road conditions.
Purchase a winter emergency supply kit or organize a kit of your own.
Carry all prescribed medications, extra drinking water and warm outwear including hats, gloves, scarves and boots as you travel this year’s wintry roads.
Properly maintaining your vehicle keeps you, your passengers and other drivers on the roads and highways safe in all conditions.
Perform routine safety and maintenance checks on your vehicle or ask a trusted service shop to perform the checks for you.
Share these winter vehicle safety and maintenance tips with your family and friends to help reduce the number of life and health threatening emergencies that happen every day on the nation’s highways.