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How To Prepare Your Car For The Snow

By Aaron Crowe

If you live in an area where it snows in the winter, you’ve got to do a lot more than just mentally prepare for it.

Shoveling snow from your driveway is a headache most people want to avoid, and driving in or storing your car in the snow is worth preparing for long before the first heavy snowstorms of the winter arrive.

The soft, fluffy flakes and whisper quiet sound of snow make for an idyllic winter scene, but it has its shortcomings. Snow’s moisture content make for an unreceptive environment to store your car in and the hazardous driving conditions associated with it can be a nightmare to drive in.

Here are some tips to help you effectively store your car and safely drive in the snow:

Maintenance

Before winterizing your car for the season, perform routine maintenance. Check and top off all fluid levels and change the oil. Leaving oil stagnant for too long can develop contaminants and damage the engine.

Fill the gas tank and add a fuel stabilizer, such as Sta-bil Fuel Stabilizer, which helps prevent corrosion and ensures a quick, easy start after storage.

There are two options with the battery: take it out and store it in a warm area, or add a battery tender, also known as a trickle charger, that keeps just enough charge to start the engine smoothly.

Tires

Nothing is sadder than jumping into your car ready to cruise with the top down than having to fix a flat tire, or worse yet, a bent rim.

Before hibernating your car, inflate all tires to the recommended tire pressure. Better yet, put your vehicle up on stand jacks at all four corners to keep the weight off the tires, rims, and suspension.

Make sure to disengage the parking brake so there is not the possibility of the brake pads fusing with the rotors. If you must prevent the car from moving, purchase a tire stopper called a chock.

If you’re driving your car in the snow, you’ll need tires that firmly grip the road surface. Purchase all-weather tires, winter tires, or put chains on.

If you’re just visiting an area with snowy conditions, all-season tires should suffice. However, if the road treacherous, chains should be purchased. Winter tires are a must if you drive in the snow seasonally. They don’t lose their grip or elasticity as all-season tires may do.

Storage

Start by cleaning your vehicle inside and out. Remove any trash, clean all upholstery, and wipe down all surfaces. No one wants to get back in their vehicle come spring to a smelly car.

Placing a few desiccant packages around the interior of the cabin as well as ensuring your carpet and upholstery is thoroughly dried, will prevent moisture and mold from building up.

Wash the exterior, and apply a protective coat such as rubberized undercoating or WD-40 to prevent areas that may be prone to rust.

Pest control is also another issue to contend with. To limit the mice from inhibiting your vehicle, consider stuffing a sock in the exhaust and placing traps around the outside of your vehicle.

Purchase a car cover, waterproof if left outside, and preferably one that attaches directly to the car so that winds don’t expose the paint. There are several types available, ranging from $25 to $300, either universal or custom fit. No matter what you choose, the car cover is a must since it protects from erosion, dirt, and possibly small dings.

Slow down

Allow more time to get to your destination. And slow down. The speed limit is only for ideal conditions. Make sure to leave enough space between your car and the car in front of you.

Remember that you’re not the only car on the road and you can’t predict how others will react to the snowy conditions. Make sure to brake gradually and control the steering wheel smoothly. Any sudden or drastic movements can make the wheels lock up and result in skidding or spinning.

Beware black ice and hydroplaning

Black ice is an unpredictable road condition that is not visible and is very dangerous. It can be found on shaded roads, bridges, overpasses, and intersections. Hydroplaning is when the tires lose contact with the road and float on a film of water.

In either situation, if you find yourself skidding, try to not panic. Ease off the brake slowly and steer the direction you want to go. Do not brake. This only makes it worse and can lead to an accident.

Be prepared like a Boy Scout, or Girl Scout

Carly Fauth, head of marketing at Money Crashers and a long-time snow driver as a resident of New England, says the easiest way to drive in the snow is to not drive in the snow, or at least be prepared.

“Keep track of weather forecasts and get errands out of the way before the storm hits,” Fauth says. “Stock up on foods and drinks beforehand as well. Make sure you have a kit in your care for emergencies that includes things like a flashlight with back up batteries, sand (in case your car becomes undriveable in the snow), and a shovel.”

The sand can help provide weight in the trunk to give the tires traction in the snow. She also recommends having the necessary tools to change a flat tire, and jumper cables for a dead battery. As with any time of year, having your car maintenance up to date is important to avoiding any problems.

Before you know it the fall season will be over, and winter will begin. In areas of the nation that receive snow, it’s that time of year to think about preparing cars for storing and driving in snow. The amount of time and preparation is minimal, but the effects are significant.