Your Winter Car Maintenance Checklist for Safe Road Trips

If you live here in Phoenix, Arizona, you may not have experience with the particular perils of winter driving.

Driving during this time of year requires that you prepare your car for the possibility of snow and ice. Whether you’re heading to Grandma’s on a cross-country road trip, or you’re just going north to Flagstaff for a day of winter fun, make sure you’re ready for anything with our winter car maintenance checklist.

  • Check your tires

No need to put snow or winter tires on your vehicle if you don’t drive frequently in the snow. But if your tires are worn and need to be replaced, consider doing so before you hit winter roads. Bald tires can make you spin out of control in the snow. Make sure you have proper traction that will allow your tires to grip, even on slick streets.

Before you head out, make sure you check your tire pressure. Cold air causes tires to lose pressure.

  • Watch your windshield

Is it time to get new wiper blades? Even the best windshield wipers wear down in as few as six months. The heat and sun here in Arizona can cause them to dry and crack, so be sure to check the condition of yours and replace them if necessary.

Another thing to keep an eye on? Your windshield washer fluid. Snow and ice combined with engine dust and other debris can make for a messy windshield, and you may find that you need to wash your windshield more than you typically do. Both wiper blades and washer fluid can be found at your local auto parts store, home improvement store, or even some grocery stores.

  • Confirm your car battery is in good shape

You may already know that the heat of a Phoenix summer does a number on car batteries. But did you know that cold weather driving conditions are also tough on batteries? If your battery has been weakened by the summer, driving in winter could do it in for good.

Get your battery life checked at your local mechanic or auto parts store, and when in doubt, replace it with a new one.

  • Check your lights

It’s a good idea to keep your headlights on when driving on the interstate and highways, even during the day, and this is especially true in winter, when snow can make it hard for you to see (and make it hard for other drivers to see your car).

Before you head out, make sure all the lights – front and rear — on your vehicle are working properly and that they are clean. This will give you optimal visibility.

  • Know how to use your defroster

You may already know that your car heater is there to keep you warm, but did you know that your defroster will keep your windows from freezing and fogging up? Understanding how to turn on and use your defroster is a must for helping you see when driving in very cold weather. If you’ve never needed your defroster before, check the owner’s manual.

  • See if you need to top off the coolant

Coolant, or antifreeze, is one of the fluids in your vehicle. It goes in the radiator, and its job is to keep the engine from freezing in frigid temperatures. You can get special de-icing formulas just for winter.

If you aren’t sure how to check your coolant level, visit your mechanic. He or she can also make sure that there aren’t any leaks in your vehicle’s engine system that could cause the coolant to drain and will recommend the right coolant mixture for your car and for the conditions you’ll be driving in.

  • Keep a full tank of gas

It’s always a good idea to stay on top of your fuel levels and not let them drop below a certain point, especially on a road trip when you don’t have as many opportunities to fill up. Keeping gas in the tank is important in winter because it keeps water from freezing inside your fuel pump.

  • Stock your car with a winter survival kit

If for any reason you were to get stranded, you’ll be glad you have a kit stocked with essentials for staying comfortable and safe. Here are several items we recommend you keep in your vehicle during winter.

  • Ice scraper
  • First-aid kit
  • Extra cell phone charger
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Jumper cables
  • Shovel
  • Flares
  • Sand or cat litter

We can help you learn the skills you need to drive safely in all sorts of weather and traffic conditions. Find out about the courses we offer at Stop and Go Driving School, and stay safe out there this season.