Yes it is just the beginning of October, but rain showers are already upon us, and a full-blown case of winter will be here before we know it.
It dawned on me last week that, with winter, the roads are an inherently more risky business for those of us who commute to work every day and have to rely on our cars to get around for other reasons.
So I put some badly needed new tires on my SUV, and started giving some thought to and doing some reading about other ways to try to be safe and ready for whatever Mother Nature may have to offer this coming winter.
Here's a list of things to check or do to be ready for winter, not necessarily in order of importance. You might think of others. Please feel free to share any additional good tips if you're so inclined, as a comment to this article.
• Check tire tread depth and air pressure and replace tires if worn or old and cracking;
• Double-check you have a functional spare tire, lug nut wrench, and jack, and that you know how to change your tire if you get a flat;
• Check engine coolant and ensure it will provide sufficient freeze protection for the expected climate for where you will be spending your winter;
• Make sure headlights (high as well as low beams), taillights, and blinkers are all working;
• Replace windshield and rear window wiper blades;
• Get a good ice scraper in your vehicle;
• Refill the windshield wiper fluid reservoir with freeze-resistant wiper fluid;
• If you may need to travel during snow weather, make sure you have tire chains, that they fit your car or truck, and that you know how to put them on;
• Clean with a glass water repellent (like Rain-X) the inside and outside of the windshield and windows of your vehicle;
• Consider replacing your battery if it has not been holding a full charge;
• Check that your vehicle's heater and defroster are working well.
Finally, consider putting together an emergency pack or container to keep in your trunk or cargo space. Here's a list of items you might consider keeping in it—a flashlight, road flares, a whistle, a first-aid kit, a few blankets, a change of clothes, a few extra pairs of gloves, a radio with batteries, a charged cellphone for 911 calls, a bag of sand (for traction), an extra ice scraper, bottled water, and some non-perishable high-protein snacks (like nuts or jerky).
Incidentally, while somewhat on the topic of automotive maintenance, I recently had one of the indicator lights in my dashboard display come on, warning me that something was up with my vehicle that needed attention. I hadn't realized that many auto parts stores and their employees have - and are trained in the use of—the handheld testers that diagnose the gravity of those warnings, which can be very helpful if your mechanic shop is closed on the weekend and some odd warning icon has suddenly lit up on the dash. A friend who was with me in the car when it happened tipped me off to the fact that we could just pop into almost any auto parts store, at no cost, and get a better understanding of how urgent the problem was (or wasn't, as fortunately for me was the case). Definitely a good thing to know.
Anyway, good luck with conducting your own vehicle's winter check-up if you choose to do so, and with staying safe out there on the roads!