Winter driving is stressful enough given the confluence of unpleasant weather, bad road conditions, and collective increases in driver stress. It can be even more stressful if you experience mishaps, gas-related problems, and seasonal breakdowns – and the same goes for your car.
Here are a few steps to save money with winter driving and help both you and your car avoid breakdowns.
- Winterize Your Car – A full tune-up can help your car’s performance, especially if you live in an area with extreme temperature differences between winter and summer. However, there are four fundamental winterizing concerns: oil, antifreeze, windshield wipers, and washer fluid.
The antifreeze/water ratio should be adjusted up for the winter conditions. Make sure your car contains the correct viscosity of oil for winter conditions as listed in your manual, and if not, change them at the next oil change. Windshield wipers should be in good condition and not chipped or cracked, and washer solution needs to have the proper alcohol/water blend to avoid freezing on your windshield.
You can save more money if you perform these steps yourself, but if you have any uncertainties, it is better to have a trusted mechanic do the job for you.
- Monitor Tires Regularly – By maintaining your tires, you can save money on gas mileage, prevented flats and blowouts, towing charges … or worse.
Keep a good tire pressure gauge handy and check your tires at different times. Your tire pressure is a function of its temperature – not just the outside temperature, but also the temperature increase caused by friction while driving. Cold temperatures decrease the pressure, and if your tire is on the edge of stress, the lower pressure can induce tire damage.
Maintain them at the recommended pressure for your type of car and tire (in the owner's manual, or in information supplied with the tire). Do not overinflate to compensate, as that makes handling on slick roads even more difficult.
You should also check your thread depth regularly; the lowest point should be at least 1/8-1/16” deep. Look over the surface for any embedded rocks, nails, or other objects that could be dislodged when the pressure changes and cause a flat or a blowout.
- Keep Gas Level High – A near-empty gas tank leaves the potential for your fuel line to ice up, especially with poorer gas blends. You also run the risk of running out of gas or being forced to pay ridiculous prices because you cannot risk making it to your preferred station.
- Limit Warm-Up Time – It is awfully tempting to leave the car running until it is nice and toasty before you get in, but doing so burns a lot of gas and serves as an advertisement to thieves that your car is available for stealing.
Wear an extra layer of clothing and start the car up while you are in it. Let it run for only a few minutes before driving. In extreme cold, your oil and transmission fluid may need more time to heat up and flow properly, but generally, your car only needs a few minutes of warm-up time. If you cannot bother with an extra layer of clothing, channel your inner Viking.
- Plan Ahead – Give yourself extra time to get to your destination during poor weather. By doing so, you are less likely to burn gas through speeding or end up in a costly accident.
The best way to save cash while driving in the snow is to do it as little as possible. You will save on gas, not to mention potential medical and auto repair bills caused by icy conditions or other drivers that are not paying attention to those conditions.
However, if moving to Florida is not an option and you have no choice but to be on the snowy roads, preventative maintenance, common sense, and TLC are your best friends.
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