Failing to properly winterize your car can lead to a number of issues, including breakdowns, tickets and fines, and even accidents. Taking the time to ensure your car is ready for winter weather can help you save time, money and perhaps your life. Try these 7 ways to get your car ready for the Bucks County winter:
1) Visit Your Mechanic
Visiting a trusted mechanic for general maintenance is one of the best ways to ensure winter weather does not leave you stranded. Have your mechanic test your battery, check your antifreeze level, and evaluate your brakes.
In addition, have the mechanic check and service your thermostat, lights, exhaust, heat, and ignition. Cold weather can further affect their operation if they are not working properly.
Make sure s/he addresses any potential issues before they become dangerous problems.
2) Check Your Oil
Plan your next oil change shortly before cold weather hits, and discuss the possibility of swapping to SAE 10w30 weight or another cold weather grade oil.
While most people in Bucks County who drive late model cars do not need to change to a winter grade oil, some vehicles and drivers get better performance with this type of oil. Discuss it with your mechanic. Even if you decide not to upgrade to SAE 10w30 weight, you need to check and change or top up your oil before the weather goes below freezing.
3) Choose The Right Tires
Some Bucks County residents opt for dedicated winter tires, especially if they have to report to work even in the most treacherous weather conditions. Consider buying four snow tires instead of two; studies show that four tires help drivers maneuver better than two.
You might only need all-season radial tires rated for snow and mud. If you decide to go this route, you may want to carry chains or cables in case of an emergency. Proper inflation also plays a key role in ensuring your treads work properly, so checking your tire pressure regularly is important.
4) Protect Your Visibility
Being able to see is vital, but winter weather often diminishes this ability. Rain, snow, and fog all make it hard to see the road in front of you. This is especially true when your car is due for new windshield wiper blades, your defroster is not working, or you are out of windshield washer fluid. Consider taking these steps:
- Replacing your wiper blades annually (You might want to consider replacing them at the beginning of winter as well.)
- Emptying any water in your windshield washer reservoir
- Filling your windshield washer reservoir with washer fluid
- Having your mechanic check your heat and defrost system
- Carry an ice scraper and small broom in your vehicle
5) Know the Law About Snow and Ice
Both Pennsylvania and New Jersey have laws in place that make it illegal to drive your vehicle without first clearing any snow or ice.
In Pennsylvania, the law fines motorists between $200 and $1,000 if snow or ice from their vehicle injures someone else.
In New Jersey, police can stop you for failing to clear ice or snow. The maximum fine is $75, unless an injury results. NJ police can fine you up to $1,000 if there is an injury. You may also face additional penalties if the victim chooses to file a civil suit.
6) Double Check Your Emergency Kit
While you should have an emergency kit in your car all year, double checking it and adding in additional supplies for winter is a good idea. Swap out your supply of snacks, and ensure you have options for water that will withstand winter weather. Add in an emergency blanket, gloves, a hat, extra socks, and other warm clothing.
Make sure you have also sand or kitty litter (to give you traction if you are stuck in snow), flares or reflective triangles, a shovel, jumper cables, and a flashlight.
7) Keep an Eye on Your Gas Tank
Make sure you keep your gas tank at least half full at all times. If your tank is too empty, condensation can form and freeze your fuel lines.
Plan Ahead for Road Trips
Once you have winterized your car, make sure you plan ahead for trips. Keep tabs on road conditions, plan your stops along the way, and consider hotels or other locations where you could spend the night if necessary. When possible, avoid traveling alone or at night. If the weather is bad, postpone your trip.
For more winter driving safety tips, check out our blog.