December 21 marks the first official day of winter. And with this seasonal transition comes cooler temperatures as well as the possibility of ice and snow. This, of course, creates new hazards for motorists, which is why it's a good idea to prepare your car ahead of time.
#1) Check Coolant Levels
When was the last time that you checked your car's coolant levels? Contrary to what some people may believe, cars can overheat in the winter just as easily as they can in the summer. However, the biggest problem associated with low coolant is the simple fact that it may freeze. Coolant typically consists of 50% distilled water and 50% antifreeze. Therefore, low coolant levels could result in water freezing inside the engine or radiator.
#2) Inspect Battery
It's also a good idea to inspect your car's battery for signs of rust or corrosion. When the positive and negative posts on your battery become corroded, it may restrict the flow of electricity to your car. The good news is that you can usually clean them with a wire brush and baking soda. If the corrosion is too bad, however, you may need to replace the battery.
#3) Check Tire Pressure
There's no better time than now to check the air pressure in your tires. The cold winter temperatures can cause fluctuations in air pressure. So, even if your tires were properly inflated, they may need more or less air in the winter. Using a basic tire pressure gauge, check to see how much air is in your tires, adjusting it as needed.
#4) Check Tire Tread
In addition to checking air pressure, you should also check the tread wear of your tires. When roads become iced over, it creates a hazardous driving environment for motorists. Braking time is slowed and the chance of spinouts is increased. To reduce the risk of an accident, you should only drive if your tires have adequate tread.
A simple test to determine whether or not your tires have enough tread is the penny test. Place a single penny head first into the tread of each tire. If you can see any Abraham Lincoln's head, there's not enough tread and the tread should be replaced.
#5) Emergency Supply Kit
Finally, you should prepare an emergency kit in case your car breaks down this winter. At the bare minimum, this kit should include jumper cables, road flares, a thermal blanket, flashlight, batteries, bottles water and non-perishable snacks (e.g. protein bars).