Is your car ready for winter?


GREENWOOD, Ind. – As we get deeper into the cold part of the year, and before Hoosiers are driving on snow and ice around Central Indiana, local car mechanics say now is the time to make sure your vehicle is ready for winter.

“I can’t even count how many times, just in the past two weeks, we’ve had a lot of low tire pressure lights come on,” said Greene’s Auto Service South Manager, Mitchell Kowell. ”Now that we’re hitting in that cold temperature, it’s time to start checking those things for sure.”

Kowell says a basic winter checklist for your car should include checking your tire pressure and tread, in order to ensure your car has the best possible traction on slick conditions. 

Tires should be inflated to the recommended pressure found on the side of the tire. Tread can be checked with the help of a “wear indicator,” which most modern tires have built in.

“In between the tread where the gap goes down, there should be a little wear tab there, and when we start reaching that wear tab or even close to that wear tab, that’s when typically tires need replaced,” Kowell said.

A winter weather checkup should also include checking your vehicle’s battery and charging system.

“Cold temperatures are going to be hard on batteries,” Kowell added. “Just want to make sure the battery and charging system test good.”

It’s also a good idea to have your mechanic check your vehicle’s belts, hoses, filters and fluids. A fluid check should include inspecting the condition and freezing temperature of your vehicle’s coolant.

For the outside of the car, winterizing means taking the time to make sure all exterior lights are working properly, and windshield wiper blades are ready to handle snow and ice.

“Making sure they’re not streaking, the rubber on them is not torn up,” Kowell said. “We want to be able to see, of course.”

Kowell also recommends not waiting much longer before scheduling a service appointment. He says staffing shortages and some delays in getting parts shipped are likely to keep many auto shops backed up this winter.

“Most shops are at least a week out usually at this point,” he said. “Definitely call sooner rather than later.”

AAA has a winter weather checklist that can help serve as a guide for preparing your vehicle for the cold months:

Battery and Charging System: Have the battery and charging system tested by a trained technician. A fully charged battery in good condition is required to start an engine in cold weather. AAA members can request a visit from a AAA Mobile Battery Service technician who will test their battery and replace it on-site, if necessary. AAA Approved Auto Repair shops can also test and replace weak batteries. 

Battery Cables and Terminals: Make sure the battery terminals and cable ends are free from corrosion and the connections are tight. 

Drive Belts: Inspect the underside of accessory drive belts for cracks or fraying. Many newer multi-rib “serpentine” belts are made of materials that do not show obvious signs of wear; replace these belts at 60,000-mile intervals. 

Engine Hoses: Inspect cooling system hoses for leaks, cracks or loose clamps. Also, squeeze the hoses and replace any that are brittle or have an excessively spongy feeling. 

Tire Type and Tread: In areas with heavy winter weather, installing snow tires on all four wheels will provide the best winter traction. All-season tires work well in light-to-moderate snow conditions provided they have adequate tread depth. Replace any tire that has less than 3/32-inches of tread. Uneven tire wear can indicate alignment, wheel balance or suspension problems that must be addressed to prevent further tire damage. 

Tire Pressure: Check tire inflation pressure on all four tires and the spare more frequently in fall and winter. As the average temperature drops, so will tire pressures—typically by one PSI for every 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Proper tire pressure levels can be found in the owner’s manual or on a sticker typically located on the driver’s side door jamb. 

Air Filter: Check the engine air filter by holding it up to a 60-watt light bulb. If light can be seen through much of the filter, it is still clean enough to work effectively. However, if light is blocked by most of the filter, replace it. 

Coolant Levels: Check the coolant level in the overflow tank when the engine is cold. If the level
is low, add a 50/50 solution of coolant and water to maintain the necessary antifreeze capability. Test the antifreeze protection level annually with an inexpensive tester available at any auto parts store. 

Lights: Check the operation of all headlights, tail lights, brake lights, turn signals, emergency flashers and back-up lights. Replace any burnt out bulbs. 

Wiper Blades: The blades should completely clear the glass with each swipe. Replace any blade that leaves streaks or misses spots. In regions where snow is common, consider installing winter wiper blades that wrap the blade frame in a rubber boot to reduce ice and snow buildup that can prevent good contact between the blade and the glass. 

Washer Fluid: Fill the windshield washer fluid reservoir with a winter cleaning solution that has antifreeze components to prevent it from freezing. 

Brakes: If there is any indication of a brake problem, have the system inspected by a certified technician to ensure all components are in good working order. 

Transmission, Brake and Power Steering Fluids: Check all fluids to ensure they are at or above the minimum safe levels. 

The Emergency Road Kit should include a mobile phone pre-programmed with rescue apps and important phone numbers including family and emergency services, and car charger. It should also include:

  • Drinking water
  • First-aid kit
  • Non-perishable snacks for both human and pet passengers
  • Bag of abrasive material (sand, salt, cat litter) or traction mats
  • Snow shovel
  • Blankets
  • Extra warm clothing (gloves, hats, scarves) • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • Window washer solvent
  • Ice scraper with brush
  • Cloth or roll of paper towels
  • Jumper cables
  • Warning devices (flares or triangles)
  • Basic toolkit (screwdrivers, pliers, adjustable wrench) 

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