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Winter car care to keep you safe on the roads this season

Tyler Westercamp of Westercamp Automotive in Mt. Pleasant changes the air filter on a truck being serviced. (Michelle Hillestad/The Union)
Checking the coolant/antifreeze is Tyler Westercamp of Westercamp Automotive. (Michelle Hillestad/The Union)
Making sure that this vehicle has sufficient tire tread is Tyler Westercamp of Westercamp Automotive. Appropriate tread will make a difference in how a vehicle handles on the road and in the snow. (Michelle Hillestad/The Union)

Don’t let Old Man Winter wreak havoc on your automobile and leave you sitting on the side of the road. Whether a new SUV or a classic, there is routine maintenance that can be done to safeguard you and your vehicle from the cold temperatures.

Tyler Westercamp of Westercamp Automotive in Mt. Pleasant has some recommendations on what you can do to help from being stranded.

“There are several things that you should look at when prepping for the winter season,” Westercamp said.

Batteries and Anitfreeze

“Batteries and coolant are a big concern when it comes to winter,” said Westercamp. “The cold really hurts batteries, and getting your coolant checked for proper freezing point is a big deal.”

These are things that a car owner will usually not do themselves and can be accomplished when taking your vehicle to a specialist.

“Most folks don’t have a battery tester, and coolant tester. When you take it into a shop you can test cold-cranking amps on the battery and see if you will need a new battery for when it does get cold here. When you take a vehicle in for regular oil changes, they should be checking the coolant levels at that time, and testing as well,” he said. “If the freezing point on the coolant is not low enough for our area, the coolant can freeze and cause further mechanical issues. Coolant ages over time, so it is a good idea to get it checked each season.”

Heater

“The heater goes hand in hand with the circulation system,” Westercamp said. “There is a cabin air filter that should be checked and replaced if needed.”

Westercamp said that this will affect the inside airflow to your heaters and defrosters and should be addressed.

“Making sure to check radiator hoses and heater hoses is a good idea also at this time. The cold temperatures also seems to find any weak points and cause leaks,” Westercamp added.

Tires

Tire inflation during cold weather temperatures is very important.

Tire pressure is reduced during cold temperatures, so it is important to keep your tires properly inflated during the winter months.

Most new vehicles come equipped with tire pressure monitoring systems that will tell you when the pressure is low.

It is important to know the correct pressure required for your tires. Driving around with low tire pressure can result in premature tire wear.

Your vehicle handles better when the tires are properly inflated and it also improves gas mileage.

A check of the tire tread depth will determine whether or not you have sufficient tread on your tires.

“Tires are the main thing between you and the road, and proper tire tread depth helps to dissipate snow from the tires, giving you a better grip on snowy roads,” said Westercamp. “It is important to take a look at tire replacement as soon as possible. It may be difficult to get your particular tire, you never know if it will be next day or next month, popular tires have been harder to get as of late.”

Most people will continue to drive their all-season tires, so it is important to check your tires regularly.

Winter tires can be considered in areas where the temperature regularly drops below 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Winter tires stay flexible at low temperatures, and can provide improved traction when you are trying to stop and turn on cold pavement.

Washer fluid and windshield wipers

Make sure your washer fluid is topped off and that you have good windshield wipers before the snow flies.

Messy debris from a snowstorm can mean increased use of both wipers and fluid.

“Make sure that you have good wipers with all the slush and mud that you get during the winter here. Most folks don’t realize that they need new wipers until they go to use them, and by then it’s too late,” Westercamp said. “It’s a fairly inexpensive item that definitely needs to be looked at.”

Lights

There is typically less daylight hours during your commute home during the winter months. So, it is important to make sure your vehicle’s lights are in good working order so they can give you the best illumination of the road as possible.

If a bulb is out, make sure to replace it. If your lights are covered with snow, make sure to remove the snow from the headlamp area before you drive off. If your headlights are foggy or the lens discolored, consider replacing them or using an easy lens restoration kit.

Breakdowns are an unwelcome part of life. With 69 million breakdowns in the United States each year, many roadside failures could be prevented with basic vehicle maintenance.

Keeping your vehicle in top condition during the winter months is key to surviving cold weather driving. Plan ahead to make sure that your vehicle stays in shape all winter long. Routine maintenance is a small price to pay toward keeping you safe on the road this winter.