Get your car ready for winter driving

January 7, 2015 05:40 PM
In theory, driving in winter is not that much different than any other time of year. But when the weather takes a turn for the worse, motorists tend to drastically change how they act behind the wheel. While it's normal to slow down or increase caution when there's snow or ice, that is not the only time drivers should be wary of winter. In fact, those who are smart enough to act ahead of time may find that they're in a better position to battle cold temperatures and inclement weather. Winter may be rearing its ugly head already, but there are still a few steps drivers can take to make sure they're prepared. Here are some to keep in mind. Get a car tune up One of the most important things you can do for your car is make sure it gets its recommended scheduled maintenance. Simply ensuring that all aspects of the vehicle are running as they should can go a long way toward providing peace of mind and a smooth ride. Although auto repair won't guarantee a carefree winter of driving, it does put you in a much better position to succeed. "Sub-zero temperatures can have a real impact on your vehicle," said Rich White, executive director of the Car Care Council. "Winter magnifies existing problems such as pings, hard starts, sluggish performance and rough idling, and very cold temperatures reduce battery power. If you haven't had your vehicle checked recently, a thorough vehicle inspection is a good idea so you can avoid the aggravation and unexpected cost of a breakdown in freezing weather." Don't empty the gas tank  No one likes to stop and pump gas - particularly if it's freezing cold. Unfortunately, if you let your car run on fumes, you could be putting it at risk for a number of problems, many of which go beyond a breakdown. The Car Care Council noted that a fuel tank kept at least half full has a much lower risk of moisture forming in the gas lines. In cold temperatures, this moisture can freeze and cause some major issues. You'll also want to have plenty of gas in the event snow or ice slow down traffic. That could make travel time much longer than what you predict, and it could also lead to accidents. When you're not running on fumes, however, you can wait out the congestion without worry. Stock up on the right tools There's never a good time to have a vehicle-related emergency, but the worst moment is probably in winter. Luckily, there are steps you can take to ensure you can deal with any crisis that comes up. Start by having an ice scraper and potentially even a snow shovel on hand - preferably a set kept in your car and one that's more readily available at home, not at risk of being frozen in your vehicle. You may also want a bag of sand, gravel or even cat litter. All of these substances can be used to provide traction in icy situations, Car Talk reported. Change the oil Oil changes typically occur every few thousand miles, as dictated by your owner's manual. However, it can't hurt to deviate a little from your schedule to fit in an auto oil change this winter. Cold weather requires an oil of lower viscosity, as it can move easily between parts of the engine at freezing temperatures. Those who stick with thick oil may not be able to start their car as easily.
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