Winterize your Car

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Car mirror with heart drawn on it by a finger in snow
Is your car up to the challenge of winter? 
Driving on ice, slush, and snow can be quite a challenge for any driver and a car that is ready for whatever winter can throw at you will help you survive to drive on those flower-lined roads of spring. It's important to follow these  seven guidelines to prepare your vehicle before those winter winds start to howl!

Tip #1: Have Your Vehicle Serviced Before Winter

Before the temperature drops below freezing, take your car into your friendly neighborhood Lithia Motors Service Center for service. Our ASE-certified and trained technicians will change your vehicle's engine oil and oil filter, check your car's battery, cooling system, brakes, belts and hoses, and tires, to make sure you are ready for whatever Jack Frost throws at you.

  • Battery - Your car's battery loses power as the temperature drops and it takes more juice to start your car. If your battery is weak, your chance of coming out to a dead battery increases. You don't want that. Have a battery installed at or above 600 CCA for best winter performance.
  • Cooling System - You want to maintain a ratio of between 50/50 and 70/30 of antifreeze to water in your radiator. Some automakers suggest specific types of antifreeze. Ask your Lithia technician to explain the difference in antifreeze brands and which is best to use in your vehicle in order to prevent corrosion and potential freezing.
  • Brakes - Good brakes and your antilock braking system are extremely important to safe winter driving. Have your technician thoroughly inspect your brake pads, calipers and rotors to make sure your vehicle is performing its best in winter conditions.
  • Belts, Hoses, Wires and Cables - These can crack due to use at any time of year, but in the winter, a broken belt or hose can leave you stranded. The same is true for wires, spark plugs and cables. Make sure your Lithia technician looks over these and lubricates them where necessary.

Tip #2: Switch to Winter Tires

Depending on where you live and how harsh the winter months are, you might be able to get through the winter on all-season tires. However, if you live in an area that experiences extreme cold and a good deal of snow, all-season tires will not give you the traction and performance you need. Rubber compounds in regular tires harden and that decreases your tires' ability to grip. In that case, you'll want to switch over to winter tires that utilize special compounds that are specifically engineered to resist hardening in freezing temperatures, providing better traction in ice or snow.
Your local Lithia Auto dealer service center sells tires and we can get you back on those winter roads in nothing flat.

Tip #3: Check Your Tire Pressure Often

Many cars today have tire pressure sensors that let you know if one or more of your tires are low on air. Remember that every ten degree change in outside temperature can mean a gain or loss of one PSI in your tires. You should check your tires with a tire pressure gauge more often in the winter months. You can do this at most service stations and your Lithia technician will check your tire pressure and make sure it is right where it needs to be. 

To check your tire pressure yourself, look at the tire placard on the inside of the driver's door jamb or in your vehicle owner's manual for correct tire pressure on your specific vehicle.

Tip #4: Get Winter Wipers

Believe it or not, there is such a thing as special winter windshield wiper blades that are equipped with a formulation of rubber compound that keeps ice from collecting on wiper blades. 

Winter wipers are heavier than the normal ones you use in the spring and summer and they can increase the load on your wiper motor, so remove them in favor of regular wipers once winter is in your rearview.

Tip #5: Keep Your Washer Fluid Full

You would be surprised at how much windshield wiper fluid you can go through in the winter months. Remember to check your fluid levels often and use washer fluid that is formulated for winter driving.

Tip #6: Keep Your Gas Tank Full

Keeping gas in your tank in the winter is very important as a full tank reduces condensation and can prevent your gas line from freezing. Plus, if you are ever stranded in a snowbank, your running car engine will help keep you warm until help arrives.

Tip #7: Your Winter Safety Kit

Having a safety kit in the trunk of your car is a good idea all year round, but especially in the winter. Put together a safety kit including: 

  • First aid kit
  • Road Flares
  • Working Flashlight 1 or 2 bottles of water
  • Snacks such as trail mix 
  • Winter coat, gloves and hand warmers 
  • Matches
  • Ice scraper
Make sure all your tire changing tools and a spare tire are in good condition should you need them.

Photo: Sherwood Ford
The Wrap Up
Driving in the winter is no joke. Know what to do before you are in an emergency situation in case you get stuck in the snow. Never leave your car in a winter storm. Don't run your engine for long periods of time. Turn it on long enough to get warm and then turn it off to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Put your dome lights on to attract attention.
Getting your car in shape for winter is easy at your local Lithia Auto Service Center. Find the location near you right here.