Car Maintenance is a mandatory part of owning a car or truck. Some drivers are maintenance savvy owners while others are clueless about so much as manually checking their tire pressure. Whatever the case, extreme times call for extreme measures. Extremely cold temperatures make seemingly simple car problems turn into huge car problems when you find yourself stranded until help arrives. At Ray Weatherspoon Automotive, we like to go over our simple winter car maintenance checklist to prep our customers and their vehicles as best as possible for the coming cold temperatures.
Compared to other regions of the United States, climate conditions in the Raleigh-Durham metropolitan area are fairly mild; the seasons are clearly distinct, torrential storms are not too frequent, hurricanes tend to stay closer to the coast, and the average snowfall only accumulates to about four inches, which is 24 inches less than the national average. The winter formally starts in December and lasts through February; however, you can always expect that temperatures will begin to fall before Thanksgiving, and this is a good reminder for preparing your car for seasonal climate conditions.
Unfortunately, many drivers disregard the importance of many items on the winter car maintenance checklist. Similar to changes in wardrobe and doing repairs around the house, we should all take time to go through the following regular maintenance checks.
#1 On Our Winter Car Maintenance Checklist – An Emergency Kit
The emergency items that can keep you safe during the winter include:
- Bottled water
- Blankets and gloves
- Prescription medication
- Snacks such as granola bars
- First-aid kit
- Snow and ice scraper
- Emergency cell phone charger
- Jumper cables
- A list of emergency phone numbers on paper
- Some cash
#2 Check Your Battery
One of the most uncomfortable situations for winter drivers is finding out that their cars will not start because of faulty batteries. Keep in mind that the cold cranking amps of a battery refer to the ability to start an engine when temperatures drop to zero degrees Fahrenheit. If your battery has not been evaluated or changed for a while, it is highly recommended that you do so before winter. When you bring your car to the shop, we will not only check the battery but also the battery cables and terminals.
#3 Winter Car Maintenance Checklist – Tire Pressure and Tread Condition
While you do not need snow tires or chains for the Raleigh winter, it is a good idea to invest in all-weather types. The air pressure becomes more important in colder climates because the pressure will drop about one PSI each 10 degrees Fahrenheit. You should follow the automaker’s and tire manufacturer’s recommended PSI levels for winter. Our technicians can tell you how many miles you have left on your treads for safe winter driving, and also whether your car needs suspension or wheel alignment adjustments.
#4 Wiper Blades and Windshield Washer Fluid
Good visibility is crucial in the winter, particularly with regard to freezing rain and sleet conditions. Make sure your wiper blades are in good shape and that the washer reservoir is filled not with water but with a solution that will prevent freezing.
#5 Oil Change
A good way to start the winter is with a fresh oil and filter change. While most synthetic oil brands these days are formulated to withstand cold weather conditions, older vehicles with higher mileage may need different types of engine oil for the winter.
#6 Belts and Hoses Check
The condition of these parts should be checked during all seasons. Note however, this is a key item on our winter car maintenance checklist because worn rubber materials will be more prone to cracking during extreme temperature changes, which happen every time the engine starts after it stops operating for a few hours. You deserve the peace of mind of belts and hoses in good condition because you do not want them to fail during freezing conditions.
#7 Engine Coolant
You have two coolant choices for the winter: specialized antifreeze solutions or the 50/50 kind you mix with water. Never add water to specialized antifreeze because it will cause contamination; the only exception to this rule would when the level has dropped low enough to cause an emergency, but then you will have to discharge the system afterwards. This would be a good time to check the entire cooling system, which our technicians can evaluate and determine if a flush or radiator replacement is needed.
#8 Lights Are Kinda A Big Deal For Many Reasons – Especially During Times Of Low Visibility
The low visibility winter driving conditions will make you realize the importance of proper lighting. If the bulbs in your turn signals, reverse, emergency, brakes, or headlights have not been changed in a while, doing so before winter is highly recommended.
#9 Electric Vehicles Winter Car Maintenance Includes:
The problem with plug-in EVs and extreme temperatures, both hot and cold, is that their range limits. However, there are perks to this type of vehicle as well of course. EV drivers can skip many of the items in the checklist above because those apply to internal combustion engines.
However, maximizing battery range in the winter requires a certain driving strategy. You will want to use preconditioning when the car is charging with a 240-volt source. Do this so that the cabin will be nice and warm before getting on the road. Heat pumps for EVs will consume more energy than seat warmers. Therefore, try to use those instead. Additionally, stick to driving in Eco Driving mode as much as possible. Doing so will take maximum advantage of regenerative braking and slower acceleration. Since full charges will take longer during cold temperatures, you may want to adjust your charging and driving schedules accordingly.