Baby it's cold outside!
Whether you live in Minneapolis or down in Atlanta like North Metro Traffic School, it's cold. Really, really cold. Once this stint with the polar vortex passes there's sure to be another not too far behind - is your car ready?
We all worry about our pets, our homes, and our exposed skin when the mercury drops but we should be thinking about the toll this kind of weather takes on our vehicles, particularly if they're parked outside. Here's what you need to know about winter weather car care that could save your vehicle or maybe even save your life.
Preventative Maintenance is Key
That doesn't mean you have to rush out to the mechanic but it does mean you should have a few basic functionalities checked as soon as possible. Dead batteries are the most common cold-weather car issue so have yours checked by a professional (and be sure to replace every 3-4 years.) Oil and fluid issues are the second-most common complaints so be sure yours are all topped off to avoid an unexpected freeze that can render your vehicle motionless.
Check Your Tire Pressure
Tire pressure is one of the most persistent issues in cold weather, particularly in parts of the country where people don't change to snow tires once winter hits. A temperature drop of only ten degrees can deflate your tires by nearly 10% making it more difficult to handle and actually less safe to operate your vehicle on the road. Regularly check the PSI on your tire (it should match the manufacturer's suggestion inside the driver's door panel) and fill your tires with extra air accordingly.
Fix that Cracked Windshield
We've all been there: A rock flies up off the interstate and leaves a tiny chip or hairline crack in the corner of your windshield. It's not enough to panic about because you can still see the road clearly but you don't want to spend the money to have it fixed. Well unfortunately, cold snaps like these can cause your windshield to expand and contract, cracking or breaking altogether. Don't wait until you're stranded somewhere with a totally undriveable vehicle...shell out the money now to repair your car's glass.
Wash Off the Salt
If you live in a region that frequently sees salted roads and bridges for ice reduction you need to wash your car at least once a week. While that may seem silly - your car's never going to look very clean in winter weather! - the salt residue can actually cause long term damage to everything from your frame to your windows. Corrosion begins to happen in as little as a few days, particularly if it warms up quickly after a freeze, so don't forget that regular washings are a part of a good vehicle maintenance routine.
Bring Your Gadgets Inside
Once the temperature drops below 32 degrees you should expect to have issues with electronics left in the cold for more than a few minutes. LCD screens and batteries go first but exposure to extreme cold can actually render your gadget little more than a pricey paperweight, too. If you do bring in a phone or laptop from a cold vehicle be sure to warm it up gradually to avoid condensation build up on the inside. That means waiting at least a few minutes to turn the device on as it'll heat up as it runs.
Cold weather doesn't have to mean disaster for your vehicle but it takes a lot more forethought than a heat wave. If you can find a place to garage your vehicle during extreme temps you'll eliminate 80% of the issues it might face...if you can't just be knowledgeable about what can go wrong and what you can do to prevent it.
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