With winter just around the corner, now is a good time to winterize your car or truck and prepare a winter emergency kit to have ready if your vehicle breaks down on a cold winter night. Here’s what you need to do to prepare for the cold months ahead!
Winterize your car or truck
As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Winter is the enemy of the car. Here are some easy steps to help your vehicle weather whatever winter dishes out.
1. Check your antifreeze/engine coolant
Car engines get very hot, and it is the job of the cooling system to keep the engine from overheating. This is accomplished by adding a mix of antifreeze coolant and water (generally mixed 50/50). This mixture runs throughout your vehicle’s cooling system to help protect the engine and cooling system from overheating, corrosion, and freezing (Water expands when frozen, and can more easily crack the engine block if antifreeze is not added).
The chemicals in antifreeze coolant deteriorate over time and need to be replaced. The time frame can vary significantly between vehicle manufacturers, so it’s important to check your owner’s manual for your vehicle manufacturer’s recommendations.
2. Check your engine oil for proper level and viscosity
Motor oil lubricates engine parts. It is measured in terms of “viscosity” (a fluid’s resistance to “flow”), and is graded using a number system: 0, 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50 & 60.
A lower-viscosity motor oil flows more quickly than one with a higher number (similar to how water flows more quickly than honey at room temperature). Now, you may say that honey gets thinner when heated; Engine motor oil is specially formulated to maintain its viscosity when exposed to heat (such as a hot engine).
Some auto manufacturers may require a different grade of motor oil for winter months. Check your owner’s manual to find the manufacturer’s recommended oil weight.
3. Check your battery
You don’t want to leave work on a cold winter night only to find that you have a dead battery! Check your battery to see how much life it has left. Some batteries have a label with a date showing when you had it installed. If yours does not, your local auto supply store or auto dealer may check it for you for free by hooking it up to their battery testing equipment.
4. Check your belts and hoses
Belts and hoses wear over time. Your vehicle will be rendered inoperable if a belt breaks or a hose leaks important fluid such as antifreeze.
When the engine is off and cold, check your hoses to see if they are cracked or soft to the touch (Most hose manufacturers recommend replacing them every 4 years). Check your belts to see if they are cracked or fraying (As a general rule, belts should be replaced every 3 years/36,000 miles to 5 years/50,000 miles).
5. Check your tires
Make sure your tires are properly inflated (Colder temperatures cause a drop in tire pressure) and that they are rated for snow. The Lehigh Valley has seen some pretty intense snowstorms in the years past.
You should also check your tire treads the ensure they are not worn down too low. You can use a “tire tread depth gauge”, or a Lincoln penny will also do the trick! Just insert the penny into your tire’s grooves with Lincoln’s head pointed down. If his head is hidden, your tire is ok; If not, the treads are worn down too low. You can also take your car to a local tire center to have them check your tires.
6. Make sure your car insurance is current and provides the coverage you need
Imagine getting in an accident only to discover that you have inadequate car insurance coverage. How would you cover your expenses? There are different coverage options available and you should review them with your insurance agent. Here’s a quick review of each:
- Collision – Covers expenses related to the damage or destruction of your vehicle.
- Liability – Covers injury, death, or property damage when you’re at fault.
- Uninsured & Underinsured – Covers your expenses if the other driver is at fault and doesn’t have insurance.
Prepare a winter vehicle emergency/survival kit
No matter the destination, every winter driver needs to be prepared if something goes wrong. If you are stuck in your car for hours, waiting for the snow plow, these simple items will come in handy. Even two hours spent waiting in your car can make for a pretty uncomfortable, chilly time.
Items to include in your vehicle emergency/survival kit:
- Blanket (warm enough to keep you from freezing if your car or truck loses power)
- Ski hat, gloves, pair of thermal socks and snow shoes
- Bottled water and non-perishable food items (energy bars, trail mix, peanut butter, etc.)
- Jumper cables, a tow strap and a few flares
- Snow shovel, ice scraper with a brush and a bag of cat litter (for tire traction if stuck)
- First aid kit
- Flashlight and a small camping size LED lantern (both with new batteries)
- Duct tape, a Swiss Army-style knife, and a general car tool kit (pliers, screwdrivers, etc.)
- A cell phone “power bank” (stores power to charge your cell phone 1 or 2 times)
- Facial tissues, a few plastic grocery store bags and lip balm or Vaseline
If you have questions about your car insurance and would like to speak with our Lehigh Valley car insurance experts, please contact us. We can design a car insurance policy that can help provide the peace of mind knowing that you, your passengers and your vehicle are covered in the event of personal injury resulting from a car accident or damage to your vehicle or to another vehicle if you are at fault.
Arbor Insurance Group provides car insurance and other business and personal insurance products throughout the Lehigh Valley, including Allentown, Bethlehem, Easton, Emmaus, Macungie and surrounding areas.