How to prepare your car for winter
The cold season is often a challenge for drivers but also for the cars they drive. Due to the wet/icy road, braking distances increase, the possibility of skidding is increased, and ramps can become more difficult, depending on the condition of the tires and the safety systems with which the car is equipped.
In this article, we will give you five useful tips to be safe and go on the road in optimal conditions.
1. Inspect the technical condition of the machine in a specialist service center
It is normal that over time, interest in personal car defects decreases, leaving some repairs later. Unfortunately, some minor defects can worsen over time, leading to larger problems.
Even if you are not willing to invest in more significant repairs, some items do not support postponement, especially in winter.
The following is a list of essential checks for safe driving:
AI1. Assessing the condition of the tires and ensuring the correct pressure;
AI2. Checking the battery and alternator;
AI3. Steering system testing: bushings, arms, steering box, power steering pump;
AI4. Checking the braking system, from pads and discs to pipes, parking brake, brake fluid, and ABS / ESP pump;
AI5. Ensuring the proper functioning of the air conditioning system together with the defrosting functions of the windshield and rear window + heating in the exterior mirrors;
ai6. ECU (Engine Control Unit) diagnosis if you suspect a problem or the engine light (Check Engine) is on;
AI7. Check/replace wipers if they no longer clean effectively.
2. Change tires on time
Winter tires are fitted to the vehicle regardless of whether or not there is a layer of snow/ice/icing on the road. They are designed to maintain flexibility when the outside temperature is less than or equal to 7 degrees Celsius.
Summer tires tend to harden during this climate and thus they will no longer have the necessary grip, contributing to potentially risky situations. The braking distance will increase significantly and the car will no longer be stable on corners.
If your vehicle is equipped with an AWD or 4 × 4 all-wheel-drive system, this does not absolve you from using winter tires, as the dangerous effects are the same. Here you will find a practical and detailed comparison between 4 × 4 with summer tires vs front-wheel drive with winter tires on snow.
Bonus: buy tires taking into account their ability to brake on wet surfaces. In general, the best value for money for winter tires is class B braking.
3. Ensure that the lights work properly
Headlights are used more often during the winter days, and traffic jams are more common. These two aspects, in addition to the inconvenience of wasting precious time, shorten the life of light bulbs that ensure our visibility and ability to be observed. For this reason, we recommend that you pay close attention to the correct operation of all the light signals in your car's equipment.
If you replace the headlight bulbs yourself, it is recommended that you adjust the headlights. This operation generally does not take much time and ensures that you get optimal visibility without blinding other road users.
4. Replace oil, antifreeze, and windshield fluid
The greatest wear on the engine occurs when starting "cold". For a few fractions of a second, the parts are not well lubricated, causing "iron-on iron" friction.
This phenomenon can be ameliorated by using quality oil and within the parameters indicated by the vehicle manufacturer. Do not use a thicker oil in winter as it will delay the engine, causing unnecessary wear. A quality oil leaves behind a protective film that is meant to reduce friction from the start of the engine.
Antifreeze is just as important as oil because it is responsible for cooling the engine and the ability of the air conditioning system to produce hot air in the passenger compartment. Check the level, density, and absence of impurities. Also, the coolant must be completely replaced after 2-3 years.
Over time, the antifreeze loses its properties and can freeze at higher temperatures. This can lead to costly failures.
The special windshield fluid for the cold season is resistant to frost and allows quick and efficient cleaning. Using summer windshield fluid or a very cheap winter fluid can damage the pump and container due to frost. The repair operation requires in most cases the disassembly of a wing of the car and sometimes the connecting hose will have to be replaced.
If the weather forecast indicates freezing temperatures, it is recommended to empty the windshield fluid container to use the winter windshield fluid and avoid unnecessary trips to the service.
5. Keep useful items in the car
Another important aspect of preparing the car for winter is to go on the road with some materials/equipment that can get you out of difficult situations. We offer you an indicative list of objects that can be useful to you:
AI1. Shovel - ideal for removing snow from the car, the parking space and indispensable if you get stuck;
AI2. Scraper or spray for thawing - useful on frosty mornings, both can damage the windshield for a long time but are necessary to ensure visibility;
AI3. Wheel wrench and/or air compressor;
AI4. Jack and a small piece of wood/metal for support - lifting a car on soft ground is dangerous and sometimes impossible;
ai6. First aid kit - mandatory by law, check validity;
AI7. Reflective triangles and reflective vests;
ai8. Winter windshield fluid;
AI9. Blankets, change of clothes, small supplies of food and water for the unfortunate cases when you have to wait for roadside assistance;
ai10. Cables for charging the battery if it suddenly discharges;
ai11. Sand - a bag of up to 5 kg can be useful if you get stuck in the snow, creating a sufficient adhesive surface to leave the place;
ai12. Spare bulbs and fuses;
ai13. Minimal tools (screwdriver, patent, a few fixed or tubular wrenches);
ai14. Spare oil and antifreeze for cars with "bad habits".
So these are our recommendations for preparing a car for winter.
A car ready for winter is a car that will transport you safely, regardless of weather conditions.
Safety comes first, and in the winter you will need to behave differently, approaching travel more carefully.