Even if you don’t live in a climate that turns harsh in the winter, there are still ways you should probably prepare your vehicle for the chilly months to ensure you don’t have to deal with potential major repairs down the road. This especially applies if your car is an older model or has a lot of miles on its engine. Even so-called “mild” temperatures (50’s and 60’s) in places like Phoenix and Las Vegas will have an effect on your car, especially since they spend part of the year laboring through very high temps in the summer time.
Here are some ways you can winterize your car and save money:
Don't Buy Snow Tires
What? You read that right. Unless you live in a climate that gets a foot or more per winter during the winter, buying snow tires and having them installed for four months is likely unnecessary and a waste of money. When we say “snow tires” what we mean are those tires that come with small metal studs embedded in the tread. If your car has such features as traction control, or all-wheel drive, then you should consider buying studded snow tires only if you live where you get several feet of snow per winter, otherwise you are just as well off. You’d be surprised how many residents in an environment as mild as Phoenix still get a set of studded snows just in case that one freak ice storm shows up. Plus they won’t take up space in your garage the rest of the year. Speaking of tires…
Check Your Tires
Make sure your tires are properly inflated and check to make sure you’ve got decent tread depth. A lot of people think proper inflation of a tire is the number printed on the sidewall of the tire itself. This is actually not true. Most proper tire inflation numbers are written inside the driver’s side door of your car, or in your vehicle’s owner’s manual. Since air expands and contracts in your tires during times of varying outside temperatures, it’s best to inflate them to the manufacturer’s specifications, and not the maximum psi listed on the side of your tire.
Check your tread quickly by placing a penny with Lincoln’s head facing downward into one of the grooves on your tire. As long as you cannot see the top of Lincoln’s head, you’re in good shape. If you can, then get your tires replaced immediately. Not only will your car handle better, but you reduce the risk of a flat and having to replace/repair the tire, not to mention the potential of getting a flat in bad weather and having to deal with the problem on a nasty day.
Check Your Battery
If it’s more than three years old, then you will want to consider replacing it with a new one. Cold weather – even so-called “mild” winter temps – can drain amps from your car’s battery, and having to replace it with the added expense of a tow means a bigger headache down the road. At the very least make sure you are carrying jumper cables in your car if your battery is more than three years old and you decide not to replace it. A quick jumpstart from a highway assistance vehicle will at least give you the ability to get to a place where you can go ahead and replace that battery if necessary.
Check Your Hoses and Wipers
Rubber tends to crack and break in dry climates, especially when the weather turns cold. Make sure your wipers are functioning properly and replace them if they are severely damaged. If not, then check your local auto parts store for ‘wiper restoration’ products. These are liquid solutions intended to restore mildly worn windshield wipers. They’re cheaper than replacing your wipers and can extend their life. While at home, pop the hood of your car and give your belts a firm tug. Inspect them to make sure there are no cracks or rips. Tugging on them will check to see if they break off in your hand, in which case you will need to replace the broken belt. As aggravating as this might be (if it breaks), it will save you money over having the belt break while out on the road and having to call for roadside assistance. While you’re checking your windshield wipers, go ahead and make sure your windshield fluid reservoir is full of winter formula windshield wiper fluid that not only will not freeze when the temperature drops, but can remove ice from your windshield when you start it up in the morning. This will save you from having to scrape your windshield as well as keep it free of ice and snow while you are out on the road. Some folks still pout warm water on an icy windshield before they head off to work in the morning. This is not a good idea. First, there is every likelihood you windshield might crack from the sudden temperature change, and second, warm/hot water actually freezes faster than cold water, which lends potential headache to your icing problem.
Get a Tune-Up Now
If you have a tune-up coming due, don’t wait until after winter to do it. Getting a tune-up sooner will replace older fluids and will help your car perform better in colder weather.
Keep Gas in the Tank
An empty fuel tank runs the risk of developing ice or even condensation in the tank which can damage your car’s engine. Keep it above the quarter filled mark during the winter months to prevent potentially costly repairs.
Keep an Emergency Kit in Your Car
This, of course, is primarily for safety reasons in case you are stranded during inclement weather. However, if something happens and you know how to fix it (let’s say you’ve been keeping that new belt in the trunk until the current one actually breaks and you know how to make the adjustments necessary to install the new one), then the emergency kit will come in handy if your DIY roadside project take a couple hours longer than you wanted it to. Stay hydrated, even – and especially – in cold wet weather, and keep a supply of energy (such as a granola bar) in your emergency kit.
Got an Oil Change Due in December?
Get it done a month early in order to get fresh, winter weight oil into your car’s engine and help keep it running smoothly.
Aftermarket Options to Winterize Your Car
Nevada is a cold and rugged mistress during the winter months. Even if you live in Las Vegas, journeying beyond those borders to higher elevations can create quite a bit of snowy turmoil. So, if you happen to be in the market for a different car you'll want to consider these fabulous freeze-free features. By the way, have you ever sat in a car with heated seats during the frosty months? It's pretty amazing.
These headlights, that move according to the steering wheel position, are not available on most vehicles. But if you can find an affordable used vehicle that has them - It's a great option to increase visibility on winding Nevada roads.
All-Wheel Drive (AWD)
You may wonder if you really need AWD. It is the priciest of winter features. But, if you live in parts of the U.S. that are prone to slick conditions and heavy precipitation, All-Wheel drive will give you piece of mind. If you're concerned about fuel economy, AWD may not be for you. An added bonus is that your resale value will be a good return on that investment. Here's a good list of AWD vehicles around $20,000.
Engine Block Heater
Hey Hosehead, if you live in the super cold northern parts of the U.S. or Canada - then you know starting up your car with a frozen engine block is a great way to ruin your day. For those of you not in the know: Engine block heaters keep your car's oil thin and cozy like warm syrup, unlike your Aunt Verna's crusty, sludgy pancake batter. If your oil is cold and grumpy and you think you could use one, always talk with your car dealership peeps before buying. You can usually find an engine block heater on the cheap.
Heated Front Seats
Get comfy in the cold winter months while relaxing those chilly muscles. These aren't so much a safety feature, although it could be argued that a stressed out and shaking driver could pay less attention to the road.
Heated Rear Seats
If you frequently transport passengers in the rear seats, including children in car seats, look for a used car that has heated rear seats as a feature. Or if you are the DIY type, you could also install your own heated rear seats for 50 bucks.
Heated Side Mirrors
These mirrors heat up to reduce the fog that builds up, melts away ice and prevents snow build up while you're driving. All of this increases visibility which ensures a much safer drive.
Heated Steering Wheel
Ditch the gloves and give your hands a warm hug with comfy benefits of a heated steering wheel. Now you can use your car’s touchscreen controls. You can always spring for a heated steering wheel cover that warms up in 10 minutes for 80 bucks.
Remote Vehicle Start
Many used cars today have some sort of remote start. But, if you can't afford one - There are quite a few after-market remotes to get your vehicle cozy before you even venture out to the frozen tundra. Before you buy one, here's a great article on common mistakes when buying a remote starter.
Yo probably think of roadside assistance after it's too late or you're picking up a friend at 3 am who's stranded in the middle of nowhere. If you do nothing else this winter to improve your car's safety - Consider paying for some type of service. Some used car dealers offer it when you purchase a car and there other ways to score cheap or free roadside assistance.
Keep your vehicle value on point with molded all-weather floor mats. These will protect your interior carpet from the slush and mud and that coffee you seem to spill in stop-and-go traffic.
Windshield Wiper De-Icer
Peeling your wiper blades off a chunk of ice is usually not how we want to start our day. You can find plenty of used cars that have de-icer for the windshield blades. There are also heated wiper blades that crank up the heat to 105 degrees.
There are pros and cons to winter tires, but buying a set of these that you change during snow season might be your best investment and upgrade. If you find a used vehicle being sold with an extra set of tires for a few bucks, we think you should go for it.
CASH 1 wants you to be safe and save money this winter. If you find yourself in a financial bind, come see us and find out if a Nevada title loan in Las Vegas or Reno is right for you. We also offer title loans in the Greater Phoenix Metro Area.