Winter Is On The Way – Part 2: Winterize Your Car

In our last blog we looked at some predictions for this winter’s weather and discovered that different prediction models are producing some different results.  That is probably not surprising, particularly for our climatologically complicated corner of the world.   After all, as Mark Twain noted, “Climate is what we expect, weather is what we get” and we will find out soon enough who is right.  Our job here at Homer Smith Insurance isn’t to tell you which Washington weather forecast is right; it is to help you get prepared for whatever comes our way.  You can also get some good Washington winter driving tips HERE.

In many respects, winterizing your car has gotten a bit easier.  It is well within the living memory of many of us who live on the Peninsula that winter meant a mandatory change of oil and a battery load test but technological change has made these checks less important.  Nevertheless, your first check for winter readiness ought to be a trip to your car’s owner’s manual to check for maintenance recommendations for winter, including tire pressure specifications, engine oil change specifications and any specific winterizing your car manufacturer may recommend.

Some general winterizing, you can easily do yourself, although it will help to have someone work with you on some items.  Inspect the car’s light – all of them – tail lights, stop lights, turn signals, emergency lights and even interior lights.  Replace burned out bulbs and check again to make certain underlying switches and flasher units are operational.  Clean all windows inside and out and clean your headlights and taillights.

Set up a winter driving kit to keep in your car.  The kit should include items such as emergency food and water, traction assistance such as mats or kitty litter, jumper cables, an ice scraper and brush, small shovel, a working flashlight, a blanket or tarp and a small first aid kit.

If you are comfortable with a few mechanical tasks, check your tire pressure, your engine oil level and your battery terminals.  The pressure in your tires will drop as the temperature drops reducing fuel efficiency and, at very low pressures, potentially leading to a tire seal failure.  Make sure pressure is at manufacturer’s recommendation. If your oil is low, top it off or change it according to your manufacturer’s recommendation.  If your battery terminals are corroded, it can lead to poor conductivity and inefficient charging.  You can clean the terminals with a solution of baking soda and water followed by brushing with a wire brush.  Wear gloves and eye protection while doing this and be careful while brushing to avoid grounding the brush and creating sparks.

Here in the northwest you should be replacing your replacing your windshield wipers regularly and this is a good time to do that.  After a dry summer, wiper blades may be brittle and cause streaking.  If you purchase them at a local auto parts store, people there will often install them free.

Finally, consider your tire options.  If you don’t have all-season tires and will likely have to drive in the snow this year, it’s a good idea to purchase tire chains. Tire chains are essential if you drive out of the area and may have to cross one of the Washington passes.  Buy early – chains are generally easy to find early in the winter season, but sell out before winter is over.  Studded tires are another option but for most of us on the Olympic Peninsula they are not a necessity.  South Jefferson County along the Hood Canal might be an exception as they are prone to greater snowfalls there.  Don’t buy studded tires on the assumption they will replace chains.  So far as the State of Washington is concerned mandatory chains means just that! When the sign says chains, you need chains; studded tires are no substitute.   And remember, studded tires are only legal between November 1 and March 31.

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