Commuter Crossing: Winterizing your car

CommuterCrossing-nameDecember is here and brings with it cold temperatures, icy roads and dangerous driving conditions. The colder temperatures affect parts of your car, so you want to make sure your car is in tip-top shape. Here are a few important areas you should check for proper functionality:

Tires – For every 10 degrees Fahrenheit the temperature drops, your tires lose one pound per square inch. Lower tire pressure decreases traction, increasing the likelihood of slipping on icy roads. Your owner’s manual will tell you the proper PSI to which your tires should be inflated. Many gas stations have an air pressure station and if you ask, gas attendants will be able to help you fill your tires.

Battery, hoses and belts – Batteries more than three years old are prone to erosion, so it’s important to see that there isn’t a white, powdery substance around the wires and connections. Be sure to keep the proper amount of fluid in the battery so that it won’t freeze and your car will be able to start. Cold temperatures tighten hoses and belts and make them more likely to tear. Replace old hoses and belts if necessary.

Fluids – Cold temperatures increase the viscosity, or thickness, of a car engine’s oil. The thicker the oil, the harder it is to keep your car parts lubricated and functioning. Choose oil that has a low viscosity. Your owner’s manual will recommend what’s best for your car. Make sure your antifreeze is a 50:50 ratio of antifreeze and water. This will prevent all of your fluids from freezing, even when temperatures reach below freezing.

Windshield wipers/fluids – Speaking of fluids, replace the water in your windshield washer reservoir with windshield washer fluid. Water will freeze and make it harder for you to see if you wash your windows. Wiper blades have about a year-long lifespan because rubber will crack. You always want to be sure you can see the road.

Four-wheel drive (if applicable) – Check to see that your 4WD system engages and disengages easily. If you don’t know how to activate 4WD, find out using your owner’s manual. 4WD will help improve traction in icy road conditions.

While snow tires are usually necessary for snowy conditions because of their increased traction, New Jersey doesn’t get nearly enough snow to worry about. Snow tires are more expensive and don’t work well on dry roads. However, if you do invest in snow tires, studded ones are only permitted between Nov. 15 and April 1. As always, you want to be as prepared as possible to ensure a safe ride to class or work.

For comments/questions about this story, email or tweet @thewhitonline.

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