After a long, gorgeous fall (which actually felt a lot like summer), we are arriving at the famous Colorado winter. Ski fanatics are giddily watching the peaks turn white, parents are trying to find last season’s snow boots and hoping they still fit their kids, we’re all turning off our sprinkler systems and looking forward to the relative calm that comes with reduced yard work. Oh, and there are a few fun holidays fast approaching!
It is also time to winterize your car for Colorado’s unpredictable roads!
Below, I share some tips that should help keep you and your family safe this winter as you head out and up and into the woods.
Engine Oil in the Winter: During the winter months, if you live where temperatures get below freezing, you’ll want to switch over to thinner―less viscous―oil. If you run a 10W-30 in the summer, for example, try moving to a 5W-30 when changing your oil in the fall or winter. If you are in doubt, refer to your manual or the manufacturer.
Engine Coolant: You car’s coolant system is not intended only to keep your engine from overheating. It is also responsible for protecting your valuable engine against corrosion. Before the weather gets too cold, make sure you are using coolant with ethylene glycol to help protect your engine.
Cold Weather and Battery Capacity: It isn’t only your engine that doesn’t like to start in the winter. Your battery capacity is reduced by the cold weather, too. A thorough inspection of your battery, cables, terminals, and fluid will help you make sure your car is ready for the winter. While you’re inspecting your battery, look around for the manufacture date. Knowing how old your battery is can clue you in to when it will begin to lose charge.
Snow Tires: Mounting the right tires on your car or truck can give you a huge advantage when trekking through snow. Many car makers and tire manufacturers recommend changing all four tires to snow tires in the winter. If you don’t swap all four, the difference between snow and summer tires can cause other problems for your vehicle.
Windshield Treatment: An easily overlooked part of your winterizing program is your windshield. If you have ever driven behind another vehicle kicking up wet, dirty road snow, then you already have a true appreciation for windshield washer fluid. For best results in clearing off cold, heavy grime, select a washer fluid with an antifreeze solution. But beware―some washer fluids can be harsh and damage your car’s paint.
Frozen Out: Door locks can freeze in cold weather and break your key if you try to force them open. The old fashion cure was warm water, but what if you’re not at home and don’t have any warm water nearby? Discount stores, auto parts stores, and even hardware stores sell glycerine you can use for de-icing. Think about where you keep it, however, because if the de-icer is in the glove box of your frozen-shut car, then it won’t help you any. Stock a tube at home in the garage and also in your desk at work. That way whenever your locks freeze up, you’ll be able to solve the problem.
Emergency Kit: If you don’t already have an emergency kit in your car, consider putting together a few basics and stowing them in the trunk. Naturally, you’ll want to be sure your spare tire is in good shape with all the tools to change it out. But you might also want a few other emergency items in case you slide off the road and get stuck in a snow bank:
I see one important thing missing from their emergency kit: food! I know that if I get stuck in the snow with my kids, they won’t give a rip if we have engine oil, but they’ll stay calm and happy if I feed them.
Also, how about a window scraper? Make sure you keep one of those handy… I have a friend who never remembers to buy a scraper and ends up using old CD cases that she finds under her seat. Not ideal.