Save Money Winterizing Your Car

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Save Money Winterizing Your Car

Save Money Winterizing Your Car

Unless you live in a warm climate – say, Florida or Southern California – the winter months mean freezing temperatures, snow, ice, sleet and road salt, all of which can play havoc with your car. Lots of auto shops start offering to “winterize” your car around this time of year, but if you want to save a few bucks, this is something you can do pretty easily on your own.

The goal is to make sure you have everything you need in the car and ensure that nothing freezes or breaks off due to the weather – at the worst possible time, probably.

Get charged. Freezing weather can really suck away your battery power – up to 50 percent. Make sure you check your battery and if you’ve had it for more than four years, it’s probably best to replace it.

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Pressurize. Tires lose pressure as the air cools, so you want to have more air in them in cooler weather. Get a cheap tire gauge and fill up on air at a gas station that offers air and water – many do it for free. And there’s never a bad time to check your spare to make sure it’s shipshape. No one wants to be caught in the cold if they get a flat.

Tread lightly. While you’re checking the tires, it’s a great time to look at the tread and make sure you’ve got plenty left. Take a penny and place it between the treads. If the treads don’t cover the hairline at the top of Lincoln’s head, you need new tires. Worn tires and icy roads are a terrible combination.

Change your oil – with the right kind of oil. Since oil thickens as the air cools, you need to use a different viscosity of oil in the winter than you do in the summer. Check your owner’s manual for the right kind of oil in the winter months, then grab a few quarts of the right stuff.

50/50. This is true for the warm months as well, but in winter especially, you want to make sure your mix of antifreeze and water inside the radiator is as close to 50/50 as you can get it. Otherwise, it’s possible it could freeze inside the car at very cold temperatures. If you want to check the mix, auto parts stores sell antifreeze testers for pretty cheap.

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Wipe out. Rain is bad enough, but when you’re trying to drive in sleet, hail, or a snowstorm, you want to make sure your wiper blades are in good condition. If they are fraying or worn down, it’s worth the few bucks to replace them.

Avoid the popsicle. Before it gets down to consistently freezing temperatures, make sure you are using cold-weather windshield washing fluid. Otherwise, it could freeze and become a popsicle when you really need to clear away some of the winter nastiness on your windshield.

Gas up. If you’re running on empty in the cold, moisture can actually freeze up in the gas lines, causing big problems. You want to make sure you keep a good amount of gas in your car at all times throughout the winter months. It’s also important to avoid running out of gas and getting stranded in the cold.

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Cold first aid. Don’t forget about yourself when you’re preparing your car for winter. Just in case you do get stuck out in the freezing weather, you want to have a survival kit in the car to help you through it. Common items include:

  • a blanket
  • boots, gloves, coat, and an extra set of warm clothes
  • extra water and food, including hard candies that won’t go bad or freeze
  • ice scraper and snow shovel
  • a flashlight, flares, jumper cables, a spare tire, tire-changing equipment, and a tool kit (i.e. a normal emergency kit)
  • tire chains
  • sand, salt, gravel, or litter to provide traction if your tires get stuck in snow
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