Is Your Vehicle Ready for the Winter? 

By Jerry Shelton

[November 2019 | San Juan Silver Stage]

Installing snow tires at Big O Tires. Debra Lueck photo.

Winter is here. The first skiffs of snow in the high country are sticking and the valleys have been coated with white. If you’re not a snowbird and you plan to stay here this winter, you’ll need to winterize your vehicle. Yeah, I know, it’s not my favorite subject either. Who wants to spend money on snow tires when we’re in full holiday mode!

But that’s one of the first things to consider. “Snow tires and the proper coolant, are the two most important things in winterizing your vehicle,” according to Austin Reed at Turner Toyota. “Snow tires are especially important if you’re driving a two-wheel or rear-wheel drive vehicle. Without snow tires, you’ll be sliding all over the place. And even if you drive an all-wheel or four-wheel vehicle, if you’ll be driving in places like Telluride or Crested Butte, you will need them.” Check your tires. Do you have adequate tread? A trick I learned is to take a penny and stand it up between the middle tread ribs of your tire (this is the raised portion) with Lincoln’s head pointing inward.

If the top of his head disappears, you’re probably good. Do this in several places on all the tires including the spare. A good depth is 2/32 of an inch, so if you can see Abe’s hair, you’re going to need new tires. Also, check the sidewalls for weather cracks, gouges, and bulges. Not sure? Your local tire shop can do this for you and make recommendations accordingly. Don’t forget to have them check the pressure, too.

Even before the snow piles up, “cold weather can cause a lot of damage if you don’t have the proper coolant,” Reed said. “Most cars today use vehicle-specific coolant. Each type of vehicle uses its own brand, so you want to make sure you use the right kind.” While you are checking coolant, is also the time to make sure your to make sure your washer fluid is freeze-resistant. Most garages, tire dealers, and auto dealer maintenance departments automatically check that when they winterize your car with the proper coolant.

Checking coolant at Turner Toyota Service Center.

“Newer cars tend to acclimate better to colder weather,” Reed noted, but that’s not a green light to ignore making sure your vehicle is safe and ready for the cold.

Did you know that at 32 degrees your battery is 35% weaker? No one wants to get stuck in a cold, deserted parking lot with a dead battery, so get a load test done to make sure your battery is strong enough to handle the cold. While you’re at it, clean the terminals of any corrosion and make sure connections are tight.

“Snow tires and the proper coolant are the two most important things in winterizing your vehicle.”

Is your windshield winter-ready? Check the wipers and fill the washer reservoir with anti-freeze washer fluid. If you park outside, you may want to purchase a windshield cover. Another trick is to fill a spray bottle with a mixture of two parts isopropyl alcohol to one part water to make a quick and easy de-icer. Sound like more than you want to deal with? Take the safe and secure “easy route,” and take your vehicle to your local trusted mechanic; have them take care of it for you.

Better yet, skip winter entirely. Plan a 3-month long vacation some place warm and sunny! One last thought. Be a Boy Scout—or Girl Scout—and always be prepared. Carry blankets, a first-aid kit, phone charger, plenty of water, some food, a bag of kitty litter (as a road de-icer), and a small shovel. You never know when you might find yourself stuck in a bad situation or come upon someone else who is. Be ready to dig your way out, or hunker down and wait for help.