The winter can be trying on a college student.
The cold weather has not dilly-dallied in arriving this year, and as students with hectic schedules, being caught off guard is the last thing we want when it’s below zero.
In preparation, some students might buy window coverings and curtains for heat efficiency in their dorms and apartments. Others might buy hats, gloves, hand-warmers and to-go cups, making chilled walks more tolerable.
And of course, a select few will only prepare by moving their beer. The savory, nectar-filled cans and bottles will be taken from homes in fridges and freezers and transported to window boxes, roofs and porches.
But one important step to winterization you shouldn’t take lightly is preparing your automobile.
Local automotive expert Jeff Williams of O’Reilly Auto Parts has several points to consider.
So grab a silver-bullet, pop a squat and see where you stand.
? Oil – As the lifeblood of your engine, oil can make or break your entire vehicle. As the weather gets colder, your car’s oil will start to get thicker. Thicker oil can’t circulate
as well through your engine and might cause serious problems.
The best way to prevent issues is by making sure your engine is lubricated with the right stuff. Changing your oil – using one with a lower viscosity – can prevent this problem.
But beware: Many oils today are multi-viscosity and don’t need to be changed. Check your owner’s manual to see what will work best for your mechanical beast.
? Safety Kit – Everyone needs to have one, but no two safety kits have to be the same. Spend a minute or two closing your eyes and visualizing what you would do if you were stranded. What tools would you need to perform your great escape from the snow bank?
Here are a few items that are most commonly included in safety kits: flashlight, engine oil, radio, coolant, washer fluid, blankets, hats, gloves, boots, flares, food and a cell phone or GPS.
? Battery / Electrical – Your electrical system can be the most finicky in bad weather. Inspect your battery’s cables and posts to makes sure they’re in tip-top shape. They can break and crack over time, which might leave you stranded waiting for DPS. Your battery also needs to have a good charge in order to start in cold weather.
Take your car to a local auto parts store to have your battery’s charge tested. And while
you’re at it, have someone check the battery fluid level as well. These are trickier once-overs you’ll want to have a trained professional perform. The best part is most battery charge tests are free.
? Wiper Blades / Windshield – Depending on what you have in place, you might want to change your windshield wipers to a heavier bladed model. With heavy snow and ice buildup, lighter blades can’t always handle the extra weight.
To make sure your windshield is prepared as well, try coating it with product like Rain-X that’s proven to help water bead up and roll off your car. You’ll also want to refill your windshield wiper fluid and check your products label to make sure it can withstand cold temperatures without freezing.
? Tire Pressure – If you’re not switching over to snow tires, the least you can do is keep the tires you have pressurized. The cold air depressurizes your tires by one pound per square inch – PSI – for every 10 degrees dropped in temperature. Remedy the drop in pressure by picking up a cheap tire gauge and inflating them to the specified pressure found on tire wall. You can often find an air hose you can use for pocket change outside of most gas stations.
? Coolant – To keep your radiator’s coolant from freezing, you’ll typically want a mixture ratio around 50/50, half antifreeze and half water. To find out what ratio works best for your car, either check your owner’s manual or see an auto technician. You can also purchase an antifreeze tester for cheap at most auto parts stores.
? Ice Scraper / Snow Brush – It happens all the time: You think you’ve got an old ice scraper from last winter in your trunk or under the driver’s seat, only to find out you don’t when you need one. Don’t be caught off-guard and wind up forced to use an expensive textbook to rid your windows of snow. It might even be a good idea to ask your parents or grandparents if they’ve got an extra. These items tend to be lost easily and then found in the summer months.
? Four-Wheel Drive – To most students this is a no-brainer, but it’s still an essential for our list. Make sure your four-wheel drive works if you have it before you need it. Double check to make sure your car transfers over to four-wheel drive smoothly. If it doesn’t, take it to a mechanic to find out what’s going on, or see your manual for do-it-yourself tips. It could be anything from low transmission and gear fluids to a faulty transmission.
? Belts & Hoses – Get under the hood and check your belts and hoses. You really want to make sure they’re not loose or torn before the temperature drops. If you don’t, you may have to endure a very cold wait.
? Snow Tires – Snow tires aren’t typically a necessity unless you live in the boondocks or northern Michigan, where the roads aren’t plowed very often. Regular tires can lose their grip around 7 degrees Celsius as they’ll freeze up and become hard. Swapping those tires out for snow tires, which have a softer composition and better tread, can make all the difference.
You can also purchase chains and studs for tires, but they typically cannot be used since they cause significant road wear. If you haven’t seen more than one person using chains or studs, they probably aren’t allowed where you live. Check your local rules and regulations for more information.