Unless you’re fortunate enough to live in one of the “sunshine” states, you will no doubt already be feeling the full effects of the inclement weather, as winter has us in her cold and sometimes icy grip. It’s not too late to ask the question “How can I keep my car safe in the winter?” Best practice for car maintenance in the winter is something we should all familiarize ourselves with, as we never know when those skills might be needed. Let’s first take a look at the key points surrounding what you need to know about car maintenance in the winter.
How do I take care of my car in the winter?
Here are our top ten tips for looking after your car during the winter:
- We’ll start with a no-brainer: get your car serviced! Hopefully any problems or potential problems can be picked up and sorted before you embark on long winter journeys.
- Make sure your anti-freeze is topped up.
- Check your battery. In the winter your battery has to not only deal with the cold, but also with an increased use of lights and heat. Make sure it’s in full working order and is not nearing the end of its life.
- Get your tires and tire pressures checked. During winter months, a minimum tread of 3 mm is recommended rather than the normal 1.6 mm, simply so that the tires are better prepared to deal with adverse road conditions.
- Clean your windscreen thoroughly (inside and out) and add some anti-freeze to your washer fluid.
- Make sure all your lights are clean and visible and check that your fog lights are working.
- Ensure you always have enough gas and oil in your car; don’t run it down to the bare minimum, as you are more likely to be stuck in traffic jams or queues or diverted via a longer route in winter months.
- Keep a winter breakdown kit in the car, including items such as a blanket, torch, hi-vis vest, shovel, deicer, emergency triangle, food and drink, and a fully charged cell phone.
Our last two tips are for you, the driver, as opposed to the car:
- Prepare for possible longer journeys. Check the weather forecast and travel updates, and allow for extra time so you can keep your speed down.
- Check your breakdown cover! It’s wise to do this before you might actually need it.
Here are a few more winter road safety tips.
Driving in winter conditions
Asking “How do I keep my car safe in the winter?” is one thing, but keeping yourself safe is also important! There are three recognized key elements to safe winter driving: stay alert, stay in control, and slow down. When negotiating snowy or icy roads, it’s advisable to stick to a low gear if you’re driving uphill, and be sure to leave a good distance between you and the car in front. Drivers and cars can be unpredictable at the best of times, but throw in hazardous weather and you need to be prepared for any eventuality.
If you’re driving downhill in slippery conditions, reduce your speed, use a low gear, and try not to break suddenly. If conditions are foggy, you should drive with dipped headlights and keep a very low speed. It’s easy to become disorientated in the fog, so be sure to keep on high alert at all times. Don’t allow yourself to become distracted by passengers in the car or maybe by getting too involved in a radio show or podcast! Rainy and windy conditions just require common sense, a slower-than-normal speed, and keen concentration. Remember that high-sided vehicles are particularly vulnerable to strong winds, so always check the weather forecast if you’re driving one of these.
Car maintenance in the winter for disabled parking permit holders
The above advice applies to all drivers, but if you own a handicap parking permit, it’s vital that you take steps to ensure that you and your car are safe in the winter. A breakdown or being caught up in an accident is very challenging at the best of times, but throw in ice and snow or rain and wind, and the situation becomes very difficult indeed if you have a disability of some sort.
Be sure that your breakdown kit and fully charged cell phone are handy in your car. If you are the sole occupant, keep these items in the front of the car so you can access them easily. Special disabled license plates need to be clean and legible. If you use a disabled placard from the rear-view mirror, this must be visible from the outside, so windows need to be clean and clear of ice or snow.
Keep your disabled parking permit up to date
It’s particularly important that you have an up-to-date handicap parking permit in the winter months. More people will be driving and parking in the winter, rather than walking or perhaps taking public transport, so there will be less regular parking spots available. You may not be able to walk or use your wheelchair outside so much in the winter, so being able to park in those convenient, designated disabled parking spots is even more vital.
Make sure you allow plenty of time to renew your permanent parking placard, as you could be fined if you continue to display an out-of-date one. Requirements for renewing disabled parking permits vary somewhat from state to state, so head to your state’s Department of Motor Vehicle website to check out the laws relevant to you.
Hopefully this has helped you with what you need to know about car maintenance in the winter. Keep safe, keep warm, and happy driving!