Winter is coming. Game of Thrones references aside, the coming of winter brings many changes. Winter wreaks havoc on almost every part of a car. Driving conditions change drastically and often even dangerously. No wonder then that today's car makers have warmed up to the challenges thrown by the icy weather and indeed make cars that keep running, when they should just freeze over. A little preparedness however, can make a car ready to handle the worst possible scenarios. Here are six ways through which we can do just that:
Preparing the battery: A car is useless if it cannot start. The battery therefore is downright essential. It need to be able to power the ignition at every possible temperature. However, Lead acid batteries lose almost 20 percent of their capacity at 0 C. They also lose much of their capacity with age. If the battery in your car is small then this may pose a problem. Batteries however also carry a cold cranking amps rating (CCA) that denotes the number of amps that a 12 volt battery can provide at 0 F for 30 seconds while maintaining a voltage of at least 7.2 volts. If low temperatures is a real concern, then look for a battery with a high CCA rating. However a higher CCA means a larger, heavier and more expensive battery.
Preparing the tires: This is a no brainer. Winter not only causes the roads to become slippery, it causes the pressure in tires to drop as well, as air becomes denser at lower temperatures. Make sure that your tires have sufficient pressure. Additionally the compound used in summer or all weather tires becomes really hard at lower temperatures. Obviously, they do not provide the same level of traction as winter tires. Traction is necessary as roads are slippery and accelerating, braking and controlling the car is especially difficult.
Preparing the brakes: The other factor that plays into stopping a car is obviously the brakes. Brake pads and rotors are probably the most abused and neglected parts of any car. Especially for winters, every driver should make sure that their brakes are usable. Start by inspecting the brake pads to make sure that there is enough material left to provide sufficient friction. Today many brake pads come equipped with wear indicators that produce loud, unmistakable and hard to ignore screeching noises, reminding the driver of their condition.
Preparing the engine: The functioning of any engine largely depends on the engine oil. Every engine comes with a recommended engine oil, graded specifically for it. This oil grade can very easily be found on the fuel cap or the owner’s manual and every car owner knows this. What is however not so well known is that certain cars recommend different engine oil viscosity ratings depending upon the temperature ranges they are expected to be running at. This information however, is often buried inside the car’s owner’s manual.
Preparing the wipers: Continued visibility in colder climates is not something to be taken for granted. As essential as wipers are, they are especially finicky. There are many possible ways a car’s wipers can stop working. Therefore it is necessary to make sure that they are in working condition to take care of the precipitation that will be hitting the windshield. Keep an eye out for cracked rubber on the wiper surface. You should take immediate action, if you find them skipping across the windshield. Of course, in this case the only solution, would be to replace them.
Equip yourself: A little preparedness can go a long way. At the same time, emergencies can occur for even the most well prepared driver, leaving them stranded in the middle of nowhere in the freezing cold. Some essential equipment therefore, should always be present in the car. This can include things like an ice scraper to remove frost from the rear window, an escape tool to cut seat belts and break the glass in a stuck car, a shovel and rock salt to create traction when the road proves to be extra slippery, flashlight, blankets and road flares to survive any accident, jumper cables to help any other unlucky driver in need of a jump start or simply a AAA approved emergency kit that contains as many as 76 items to cover any possible emergency.