Q: I live in the Bay Area but grew up in the Midwest. My dad said I still need to get my car ready for winter driving. I wonder if that is really necessary, because it does not get that cold here, nor does it snow.
A: My first thought is that at some point, you may want to drive somewhere with colder temps or snow. And even if the temps here are not as extreme as in the Midwest, the change to winter weather is a good time to have your vehicle checked. So, your dad is giving you good advice.
Several items are worth your attention.
• Tires. One of the most neglected parts of the car is tires. Tires need to have enough tread to disperse the rainwater from the road so that you do not lose traction and then control of your vehicle. A simple way to check is by taking a penny and placing it in the tread with Lincoln’s head facing downward. If you can see the top of his head, it’s time to install new tires.
The other often neglected part of tire maintenance is pressure. Tire pressures need adjusting based on the ambient outside temperature. A tire loses 1 pound of air for every 10-degree drop in outside air temperature. Conversely, a tire gains 1 pound for every 10- degree increase in outside temperature. If you are going from a warm environment such as San Jose to Lake Tahoe in the winter, check tire pressures.
The correct tire pressures for your vehicle are usually found on the sticker on the driver’s side door. If not, check the owner’s manual or ask an automotive service provider.
• Battery. Battery efficiency declines with a drop in outside temperature. The cooler the weather, the slower a battery’s chemical reaction. This has a negative effect on the ability of the battery to start the vehicle’s engine. It is best to have your battery checked by having a professional perform a load test to determine the battery’s ability to operate under adverse conditions.
• Wipers. Test window-wiper blades to ensure that they are in good working order.
• Fluids. Check that all vehicle fluids are full.
• Lights. Check that exterior and interior lights are working properly.
• Coolant. Check the condition of the engine cooling system’s coolant. The coolant should be a 50/50 mix of water and antifreeze. The pH of the mixture should be neutral. A professional should check both of these conditions.