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Winterizing Your Car

It's getting cold out and soon the dark days of winter will be upon us. Will you be ready?
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If you are going to be in extremely cold climate for a period of time, adding a de-icer to your fuel can keep moisture in the fuel system from freezing.

Have your exhaust system inspected to make sure there are no leaks and it is securely attached to the car. Every winter too many people die from carbon monoxide poisoning from leaky exhaust systems. And never, ever run your car in a closed garage to warm it up. This is a sure way to cause an extremely tragic accident. Carbon monoxide will seep into the house and cause loss of conscience and death.

Okay, so far, so good. There's one more thing we should look at... the tires. Most tires sold today are "All-Season" radial tires. Now there's nothing really wrong with them, they are good tires. I have four of them on my car. But keep in mind that they are a compromise between winter and summer driving. I have two, real snow tires for my car and I put them on just before (most times) the first snow flies. Make sure the tread is good, it doesn't make sense to put worn out snow tires on your car. Another option is snow chains. I don't think too many people use these any more. They are hard to put on and they can tear up asphalt highways and streets. Some states have laws against the use of snow chains so check the local laws if you are considering them. The same goes for studded snow tires as well. Once your car is fitted with the proper tires, make sure that they are adequately inflated. Generally, a car's tires lose approximately one pound of pressure for every 10-degree decrease in temperature.

And while you're checking the tires, when was the last time you checked the spare? Make sure all the parts for your car jack are there and that it is in good, working condition. It might sound silly, but practice changing a tire using the equipment in your car. I'm glad I knew my jack was in good shape and I knew how to use it at 5:30 in the morning when I got a flat on I-90 and it was -43 and a wind chill of -70 outside.

Isn't that a clever way for me to get you into your trunk?

What should you have in your trunk in case of an emergency? If your car is rear wheel drive something heavy to improve traction. Most home centers sell 70 pounds bags of sand. These can serve two purposes, one, they add weight and improve traction and two, if you do get stuck, you can spread the sand out under you tires to get the traction you need to get unstuck. I would recommend keeping at least two of these bags in your trunk. Of course if your car is front wheel drive, the sand bags will prove just as useful, if not for traction, for helping get out of a snow bank.

A good set of jumper cables is a good thing to have. There is nothing like a cold morning to bring out the worst in a battery and a set of jumper cables will increase your chances of getting a jump-start if you need it. And you can be a Good Samaritan and give someone else a jump-start if they need it. Get a good set, 4 to 8 gauge. They cost a little more, but they are well worth it. Read and print out How To Jump Start A Car and keep it in your glove box just in case.

A shovel sure would come in handy if you should get stuck. A regular sized snow shovel would be the ideal choice, but in smaller cars you can get a smaller one or one that will fold up.

Some other handy things to have would be a three pack of flares, some gas line anti-freeze/drier, an insulated pair of work gloves, a flashlight with spare batteries, a couple of ice scrapers, sand, salt or kitty litter for traction, non-perishable food (trail mix, dried fruit...) and a couple of extra gallons of washer fluid.

Some other things to consider are a couple of heavy blankets and some of those hand warmers that hunters use. If the worst should happen and you get stuck with no hope of driving out and your car is dead, you can keep yourself warm until help arrives. If you get hopelessly stuck and your engine will still run, make sure the tail pipe is well clear and free of snow and ice. Stay in the car until help arrives. If you find yourself feeling drowsy, get out of the car and walk around. Open the windows on your vehicle to clear out the old air and let fresh air in. Never leave your heater in the recirculation position for more than 15 minutes at a time.

When you are all done with this, look your car over closely. If there are any paint chips cover them. Get a tube of touch-up paint and cover the bare metal spots. These spots will give road salt a good bite into your sheet metal. When you are done with the touch-up, give the vehicle a good wash and a coat of wax. Don't just run it through the car wash, get out the hose, bucket and soap. Then get a good quality wax and give you vehicle a good coat to protect the finish from salt and chemicals.

Winter is a tough time of the year on you and your car. And if you are like me and hate the cold, a car that has been properly winterized will keep you going and nice and warm.

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Additional Information provided courtesy of
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© 2000-2007 Vincent T. Ciulla

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