As the season turns, the cost of keeping your car running can rise as the temperature falls. In cold weather, you don’t want to have to call a tow truck for a dead battery, or a breakdown when a little preemptive strike can be helpful. So is your car winter ready?
Vehicle Winter Ready Checklist
Check your Battery and Electrical System
Some auto parts stores will check your electrical systems for free, and test your battery. Cold starting a car takes a lot more juice than it does in warm weather. The cold slows down the reaction that makes electricity available to start your car. If your battery is having trouble “holding a charge” you will almost certainly have trouble starting at some point.
Check Your Belts and Hoses
Its also a good time to get a general tune-up as well as check your tires, belts and hoses. Cold contracts things, and hoses or belts that are cracked, or worn can break when they get cold. Not to mention that in severe cold, worn hoses and belts can become brittle.
Next see if your auto insurance or warranty covers towing. If it does not, seriously consider buying tow insurance. You really don’t want to be stuck on the road in winter with a dead battery, frozen door lock or frozen radiator. Yes, you can overheat in the winter due to a frozen radiator. Go figure!
Auto Towing Insurance like that included with a AAA membership can be a real help when you need it. Without it, just a single tow can put a real dent in your monthly maintenance budget, where the annual cost of insurance can be significantly less than the tow. And just one frozen door lock can cost you over $100 to have a tow operator come out and get you back into your car. (I know this from experience.) It’s a good thing to keep in your automotive budget.
Other Ways to Get Winter Ready
Winter ready is more than just getting your engine in working order. It’s also a good time to be sure you have a few extra essentials in the car. Keep a small bag of sand or salt, and a small shovel just in case you get stuck in snow. I’d also recommend a pair of gloves or mittens and a hat and scarf in case you are caught without them and encounter car trouble (There’s no real savings there, except maybe avoiding frostbite!). I used to carry an old woolen blanket in the trunk just in case. I hate to say, it came in handy many times. The older the car you drive, the more likely you are going to have some sort of trouble, especially in winter. Be prepared, and you may avoid some potential costs.
If you are handy with tools and not afraid of internal combustion engines you can do some of this work yourself, and save some money. I continually surprise myself with the repairs that I have been able to do to my own car. I’ve never been fond of auto repair, but have saved nearly $1,500 over the past 3 years, by figuring out what was wrong, and finding how to repair it on the Internet. (My neighbors thought I was nuts, with my laptop propped up on the front seat of my car, and working under the hood!)
Maybe you know someone who is handy with cars and you can barter or trade something for the work. Even if you have it done professionally, avoiding emergency repairs and road service by doing a little preventative maintenance can save you a bundle.