Don’t get stuck out in the cold: Preparing your car for winter

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Jackets and gloves have started to come out of the drawers and closets, which means that it’s time to check some more things in your car to make sure it’s ready to take you where you need to go safely and reliably this winter.

“You should definitely keep up on your maintenance,” said Blake Bump, technician at Advanced Auto Repair in Rapid City. “For example, a battery is $100-200 for a good one, and some of them are a little more expensive. But how invaluable is it going out to your car and having it start every morning?”

Here are a few simple and relatively inexpensive things you should check before winter sets in:

  • Read your owner’s manual to see if the oil viscosity in your car needs to change with the season.
  • Monitor and maintain your tire pressures because colder temperatures cause lower air pressure.
  • Have your engine coolant tested to make sure it’s clean and won’t freeze during cold snaps. Frozen coolant can severely damage or destroy an engine.
  • Have all belts and hoses checked for cracks and deterioration – cold weather can make these problems worse.
  • Keep your windshield wipers in good condition, and remember that you should never try to remove snow with them.
  • Keep plenty of windshield wiper fluid in your car to clear all of the salt and debris kicked up from the road surface.
  • Test your battery to ensure it is maintaining charge, and many auto parts stores will test it for free. Summertime heat can significantly weaken a battery, resulting in failure during the winter, when it works hardest.
  • Tires, tires, tires! Have the right kind of tires on your car – they are one of its most important safety features.
  • Keep a winter-car kit with some emergency tools, flashlight and other winter snow and ice removal tools.

Checking a few simple things on your car may cost you a little bit of money, but that money may save you thousands of dollars in repair costs and provide the peace of mind knowing your car is not going to let you down when the weather turns cold.

“You can spend maybe up to a couple hundred dollars on the maintenance of your vehicle for winter, or spend upwards of thousands of dollars for a ruined engine because of lack of maintenance,” Bump said. 

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