The best way to be a safe driver and keep your vehicle running right during the colder months is to keep up with your vehicle manufacturer recommended services. These will include specifications for the proper coolant, tires, oil and other seasonal driving advice.
Replace vital fluids, such as motor oil and coolant, according to the vehicle manufacturer’s time and mileage recommendations, taking heed of any variations advised for cold weather conditions.
Antifreeze/coolant is important in colder temperatures to keep the cooling system from freezing. Coolant also runs through the heater core to warm the cabin, so the system needs to be full so you can stay warm and defrost the windshield. Do-it-yourselfers should be aware that there are different varieties of coolant, and they don’t play well together. You want to use the correct type for your vehicle: getting this wrong and mixing different types may cause it to turn into a gel inside your engine and cooling system. Worse, it can be expensive to get the mess cleaned out of the engine, radiator and heater core. Jiffy Lube® technicians can tell you the type of coolant your vehicle’s manufacturer recommends. Vehicles that have not been serviced for a while may also benefit from having old coolant flushed out and replaced with fresh coolant at intervals recommended by the manufacturer as part of a Jiffy Lube Radiator Antifreeze/Coolant Service. We’ll also check to make sure your hoses (radiator and heater) are up to snuff. Aged, brittle hoses may give up when subjected to wide swings in temperature.
According to the American Automobile Association, a battery that’s plenty strong at 60° F can have 35% less power at 32° F and 60% less at 0° F. All batteries are challenged by cold, so they need a reserve of energy to answer the call when you turn the key. A weak battery may not have the extra poke it takes to start a cold engine.
Have your Jiffy Lube® technician do a Battery Diagnostic Service at the beginning of the season to make sure it has enough cranking power to get you through the winter. Cable connections that are clean of corrosion help make the most of a cold battery’s weaker charge, so now is a good time to consider a Battery Terminal Cleaning Service, or if necessary, a Battery Terminal Replacement Service as well. Some batteries may need fluid topped up, though the maintenance-free variety has become widespread. To minimize strain, start the vehicle with accessories like the heater fan, lights and window defrosters turned off.
Your vehicle may have “all-weather” tires suitable for use in mild winter weather. If not, or if “mild” doesn’t describe the ferocity of winters where you drive, consider special winter tires. These are designed with snow-gripping tread patterns and, more importantly, made of rubber compounds that maintain their grip even in low temperatures.
Whatever tires you use need to be inflated properly. Underinflated or worn tires can be dangerous on slick, icy roads. Underinflated tires create extra heat where the rubber meets the road, degrading the tire structure, wearing out the tread and reducing traction. Properly inflated tires also provide better cushion between potholes and the tire rim, lessening the risk of wheel or alignment damage.
Tire pressure should be checked regularly and filled to the recommended cold level. This information is usually located in the vehicle owner's manual or on a sticker in the doorjamb, trunk or glove box. Correct tire pressure is vehicle-specific, not tire-specific; the pressure listed on the sidewall of the tire is the maximum, but may not be the one your vehicle’s manufacturer recommends.
Windshield washer fluid is critical for good visibility since it helps clear away ice, road grime and dirt. Add more when the reservoir is low, and consider using one rated for lower, subzero temperatures in particularly cold climates.
Wiper blades should glide smoothly across the windshield so they do not leave streaks or blind spots. If there are pits or rough patches on the edges that touch the glass, your view could be impaired. If cleaning doesn’t help, new blades should. Special winter blades designed for use in heavy snow and ice are available for those who need them. Most Jiffy Lube® service centers perform Windshield Wiper Replacement Service.
Before you leave your driveway, scrape ice and snow from every window and the exterior rearview mirrors, not just a small patch on the windshield. Conditions are likely to be treacherous, and you need to be able to see everything to respond appropriately in an emergency. Have sunglasses in the vehicle. It may be cloudy now, but if it clears, the glare of snow can be a serious safety hazard, as can the sun itself, since it’s lower in the sky during the winter than in the summer. Don’t forget to remove snow from headlights and brake lights — other people need to see you, too.
A properly packed emergency kit is essential during the winter. It should contain a flashlight, extra batteries, water, flares, blankets, a shovel, a snowbrush, an ice scraper and tire chains where they are allowed by law.
Keep your gas tank at least half full. Water vapor can condense on the inner walls of an empty fuel tank overnight in cold weather and drip into the gas. Your fuel system can deal with a little water, but a lot mixed in a little gas can make the vehicle run rough, or not at all if the water freezes in the fuel lines. So consider the half-full mark “empty” in winter to avoid this. The extra gas also adds weight over the nearest axle (usually the rear) which can be an aid to winter traction.
Warm it up? Warming up a vehicle prior to travel is a common practice, but most engines really don’t need more than a minute or more to circulate oil to all internal parts. Check your vehicle owner’s manual for information about your engine.