HOW TO PROTECT YOUR VEHICLE DURING A COLD SNAP
When the weather turns frigid, follow these tips.
By Jordan Mendoza
Extremely cold weather can wreak havoc on your car’s engine, suck power from its battery and deflate your tires. And during a cold snap, temperatures can plummet overnight, putting your car at higher risk of breaking down on your morning commute. So make sure you monitor the forecast, and if you hear that a cold spell is coming, here’s what you can do to protect your vehicle.
CHECK THE BATTERY Battery issues are the most frequent cause of breakdowns, and low temperatures can drain batteries far faster than high ones. Examine your battery’s terminals and cables, making sure they’re tight and free from corrosion.
COAT THE BATTERY TERMINALS Coat the battery terminals with automotive grease or petroleum jelly to prevent deposits from forming. If the battery looks swollen or if the casing is cracked, take your vehicle to a local Ford Dealer Service Center to be checked right away.
MONITOR YOUR CAR’S TIRES Tire pressure drops considerably in cold weather, affecting your vehicle’s handling and stopping ability. Check your tire pressure monthly, and fill the tires to the proper level as listed on the label found on your driver’s side doorjamb.
CHECK AND CHANGE THE OIL Do this regularly. Colder temperatures cause oil to thicken, impeding its ability to travel through the engine. This can lead to a breakdown. Consult your owner’s manual to find out the best oil for your vehicle.
INSPECT BELTS AND HOSES Look for cracks or fraying—in winter belts and hoses are more likely to get brittle and break. A damaged belt will reduce the engine’s efficiency, and a leaky hose could lead to an overheated engine and costly repairs.
FILL UP THE GAS TANK Keep your gas tank at least half full to avoid a gas-line freeze-up.
MAINTAIN THE COOLANT LEVEL Check your coolant level whenever you fill up the gas tank. Running low on coolant—also known as antifreeze—can be catastrophic, potentially ruining your engine.
EXAMINE THE WIPERS In cold weather, windshield wipers need to be in top shape to remove snow and ice. Examine them and replace your wipers if the rubber is cracked, broken or falling off. And be sure to use a windshield washer fluid with the necessary freeze protection for your area.
INSPECT THE WINDSHIELD Inspect your car’s windshield, looking for any cracks or chips. When temperatures drop below freezing, cracks are more likely to spread because the glass becomes more concave, and any moisture that collects in chips can freeze and expand.
AVOID FLYING DEBRIS To protect your windshield while driving, be on the lookout for flying debris, especially from snowplows, which can launch stones, ice and chunks of asphalt.
TAKE AN EMERGENCY KIT Prepare a winter emergency kit for the trunk and check it regularly, making sure your portable jump starter and spare cell phone are charged. (Often 911 calls will go through even if the phone has no service plan.) The kit should include:
- Tire chains
- Road salt or kitty litter for traction
- Jumper cables
- Jump starter
- Cell phone
- Phone charger
- Small shovel
- Ice scraper
- Rags or paper towels
- Bottled water
- Energy bars
MONITOR THE FORECAST Always keep on top of your local forecast and stay off the road when there are advisories. Stay safe—and warm!