We know it is probably a beautiful summer day as you read this message, but with Labor Day around the corner, it won’t be long before temps start to drop. Not a welcome prospect after our last winter, we know. So, we thought we’d focus on cold weather vehicle prep, with an emphasis on your electrical system needs, providing a quick checklist for you as you head into fall. This way, you can circle a weekend in the next few weeks to do your cold weather prep, well ahead of the first flakes falling.
1. What is your battery’s condition?
We are going to recommend several battery maintenance steps below, all of which are very helpful. But, the assumption for each is that you have a healthy battery, whether it is 1 year or 4 years old. If your battery isn’t in good condition, the steps below will provide limited benefit, as there is only so much that can be done to prolong a fundamentally unsound battery. If you are in doubt, you can get your battery and charging system checked free of charge at a wide variety of retail auto parts stores, as well as during a vehicle service or oil change. Better to know now, so you have time to plan and shop around, as battery costs have risen dramatically over the last few years.
2. Visual Inspection
Even if your battery is in good condition, a quick visual inspection is good practice. Is there corrosion building up on the battery post connections? If not, that’s great. If so, carefully clean the terminals using baking soda and a brush (as always, remember to wear protective eyewear and gloves). In addition, check for frayed wire connections at the battery, alternator and starter. Numerous times, we have seen how a poorly terminated wire, including ground connections, can be the source of multiple electrical problems. A quick visual inspection can be a great way to eliminate the problems before they manifest themselves.
3. Give Your Battery a Charge!
Today’s batteries are more sophisticated than those of 10 or 20 years ago. In addition, they are worked much harder by the vehicle than was previously the case. Occasional maintenance charging using a quality smart charger is a great way to ensure your battery is getting the charge it needs and potentially extend its service life. This is particularly true if you have installed a replacement battery that was not an exact match for the OEM battery removed. We have seen many examples of non-matching replacement batteries suffering from incompatible charging systems, causing the battery to never achieve a truly full charge. Occasional maintenance charging is a great way to address this situation.
4. What’s Your Backup Plan?
Many of us live in multi-vehicle, multi-driver homes. This is a complication on many levels, particularly when it comes to dead batteries. You could get your cold weather prep completed on time, only for a member of the household to leave their lights on while attending school, parking at work or shopping at the mall. What now? Many of our customers have found that the best answer to this issue is a jump starter. But, what’s the strategy? One for each vehicle and keep it in the trunk? One for the whole family kept at home and brought to the site of the problem when it occurs? It all depends on what works best for your particular situation, but no matter how you handle it, always make sure your jump starters are charged regularly. A great way to do this is to sign up for our Quarterly Recharge Alertsto ensure that your jump starter is ready when you need it the most.
5. Check Your Fluids
Fall is a great time to check your fluid levels. Assuming you have access to all major vehicle systems (there are some vehicles with sealed system that make checking fluid levels very difficult), it is a good practice to check your engine oil, coolant, transmission fluid, power steering fluid, brake fluid and window washer fluid levels. On most vehicles, this should take less than 20 minutes and provides great peace of mind. If the fluid is low in any given system, we believe it is best to first find the cause of the low fluid situation and then, after addressing that cause, bring the system up to full fill using factory fluids to ensure a proper match.
6. Check Your Tire Condition and Pressure
How are your tires doing? Is the tread wear becoming excessive? Were you warned during your last rotation that you were approaching the end of your tire life? If so, it is in wet, snowy conditions where your tires’ deficiencies will be most apparent. If, on the other hand, your tires are in good shape, this is a great time to check your tire pressure to optimize your fuel efficiency and improve performance. Remember that pressure should be checked when the tires are cold, such as at the start of the day.
7. Load Necessary Equipment
How many things you need to load in your car to prepare for cold weather is really a function of the weather you expect to encounter. Snow brushes and even a shovel are appropriate up north or in the mountains, while less is needed down south. For us in Kansas City, a good snow brush with a scraper is about all we need. Our winters are relatively mild, with ice storms as the biggest source of potential problems. In addition, if you plan to make any long drives, it is a good idea to have a few blankets and some bottled water with you, in the event of particularly bad weather that causes you to get stranded.