It’s been the hardest winter for drivers in three years. So before the snow gets worse and you find yourself stranded on the side of the highway because the car battery died, make sure your vehicle is ready for the cold and snow.
Here are a few tips.
• Tire pressure: Adjust your tire pressure now before you have to get down on your knees with the gauge and unscrew the valve caps.
Tires lose pressure for every drop of 10 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the ASE. An underinflated tire can result in traction problems.
• Snow tires: You might consider snow tires, which have tread patterns and rubber compounds that make them quieter on dry roads, and more effective on frozen ground.
“A lot of tires now are all-weather, but there are still true snow tires,” said Tom Trupp, owner of Trupp’s Garage, in Reading, Pa.
All-season tires are most likely on your vehicle, which have front-wheel-drive and anti-skid systems. Just make sure the tire tread is in good condition to make driving easier.
• Brakes: You should have your brakes checked periodically for safety, especially now, when snow on the road can create unexpected driving scenarios, the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence recommends.
• Windshield wipers: Snow and sleet can worsen visibility, so make sure windshield wipers are clean and in good condition. Also, check the windshield wiper fluids level, since you’ll use more to wipe away dirt splashing up from other cars.
Make sure any leaves are cleared from the air plenum near the windshield. When it snows, turn off your wipers when you park so they aren’t fighting to break through any ice when you start your car.
“Make sure they’re clean before turning them on,” Trupp said.
• Battery: Professional equipment is the only way to accurately detect a weak battery, so if you’ve had your battery for a long time and are concerned it won’t survive the next couple of months, get it checked.
• Emergency kit: Should you have car troubles, make sure you’re prepared to withstand the cold by carrying extra gloves, boots and blankets. Have a small shovel, flashlight with extra batteries and a few snacks stowed away.
• Heater and defroster: Make sure they’re in good working condition for passenger comfort and driver visibility.
“A lot of people don’t think about the rear defroster,” Trupp said.
• Antifreeze: Your antifreeze is an important part of a car’s winter protection. Make sure the level is full and strong enough.
Some auto service stations and repair centers will check this mixture for free.