Now is the time to start thinking about winter, and your vehicle.
The temperatures are still warm, the sun still shines brightly, and even though summer has already begun its inevitable march towards fall, no one really wants to think about colder weather, winter driving or winter storage just yet. But right now is exactly when you should be thinking about winter as it relates to your vehicle. Doing so will accomplish several things. One, if you intend to drive your vehicle through the winter, preparing it now will help ensure it makes it through the colder months. Two, if you park your vehicle over the winter – whether it’s a tractor or SUV – winter prep today will enable it to start easily several months down the road.
Vehicles that are going to be stored all winter
Before you park your baby in the garage or barn for the winter months, carve out a few hours to take care of a few essentials.
Fuel preservation – gasoline doesn’t las forever, and when it starts to break down, it can make starting difficult and even damage the vehicle’s fuel system. Gas containing ethanol makes the problem worse, particularly in lawn and garden equipment. To avoid the problem, first consider switching to a fuel that’s 100 percent gasoline with no ethanol added. Second, add a fuel preservative to the gas tank and follow the instructions for using it to prevent fuel breakdown and engine or fuel system damage.
Trickle charger – a battery that isn’t being recharged regularly through everyday use may have difficulty starting several months later after it’s lost some or all of its charge. Be proactive when it comes to your vehicle power and connect the battery to a trickle charger to maintain the charge over winter. Another option is to disconnect the battery from the vehicle to prevent any power draws and to increase safety on older vehicles or lawn or farm e equipment.
Preventive maintenance – don’t wait to take care of maintenance items or something you know needs to be fixed. If you don’t do it now, the problem is still going to be there this spring, slowing you down when you would rather be using your vehicle instead of performing maintenance. For lawn equipment that won’t see the light of day again until the grass starts to green, sharpen the blades, change the oil and filter, install a new spark plug and check tire pressures. For cars, SUVs and farm tractors, test the antifreeze to ensure it will adequately protect the engine down to the lowest expected temperature.
Vehicles that are going to be driven all winter
Visibility – being able to see where you’re going is a top priority no matter what season it is, but in winter, it becomes especially important, and sometimes challenging. Check all the lights to confirm they are working. If your headlights are older, replace the bulbs with new ones that feature improved technology that enables you to see further down the road and to the sides. Replace windshield wipers with winter blades in climates where snow and ice can be expected, and fill the windshield washer tank with a deicing fluid.
Starting – summer’s heat takes a toll on batteries, and that weakness is bound to show up on the first really cold morning when your car won’t start because of a dead battery. Have your battery and charging system tested and replace the battery if it’s weak.
Heat – you and your passengers aren’t the only ones who need heat when driving in colder temperatures. The heat’s also required to defrost windows before and during travel. If you hear strange noises when you turn on the heating and cooling system, or you don’t feel any air moving, there could be a problem with the vehicle’s blower motor. Proper coolant levels and a functioning thermostat are also required for heat. Replace both according to your vehicle’s maintenance schedule.
Traction – snow and ice call for tires with plenty of tread life remaining. Check your tires’ tread depth or have a professional check them for you and consider adding tire chains to your vehicle’s trunk emergency kit.
Whether you’re driving or parking your vehicle through the winter, now is the perfect time to prepare it for spring. By doing so, you’ll save time, money and aggravation later on.
Editor’s note: Whatever parts and supplies you need to prepare your vehicle for winter, Advance Auto Parts has them. Buy online, pick up in store, and get back to the garage.