Winterizing Your Vehicle

Climate changes don’t affect just you―they also affect your car. In regions that don’t enjoy mild winters, you wouldn’t dream of heading outside without a heavy coat if the wind chill brought the temperature below freezing. Don’t expect your car to function properly without some attention to its winter needs, too.
Engine Oil in the Winter

The oil in your engine changes depending on how hot or cold the engine is running. Because the outside temperatures will influence the internal temperature of your engine, you need to make sure you’re using the proper oil for the conditions.

During the winter months, if you live where temperatures get below freezing, you’ll want to switch over to thinner―less viscous―oil. If you run a 10W-30 in the summer, for example, try moving to a 5W-30 when changing your oil in the fall or winter. If you are in doubt, refer to your manual or the manufacturer.

Engine Coolant
Your car’s coolant system is not only intended to keep your engine from overheating, it is also responsible for protecting your valuable engine against corrosion. Before the weather gets too cold, make sure you are using coolant with ethylene glycol to help protect your engine.

Every vehicle requires a certain ratio of coolant to water, and your owner’s manual or repair technician can explain what your engine needs. For most vehicles, a winter ratio is 60% coolant to 40% water. Adjusting this ratio is an important step in winterizing your car, so if you need help, ask someone who is experienced and knowledgeable.

Additionally, some engines can only take specific types of coolant. Be sure to check your vehicle manual to make sure you are putting the right type of coolant into your car.

Cold Weather and Battery Capacity

It isn’t only your engine that doesn’t like to start in the winter. Your battery capacity is reduced by the cold weather, too. A thorough inspection of your battery, cables, terminals, and fluid will help you make sure your car is ready for the winter.

Check over the battery cables for cracks and breaks. The terminals should fit snugly with no loose connections. You can check your battery fluid by uncovering the refill hole (or sometimes holes). If the level is below the bottom of the cap, refill with distilled water.

To read the level of charge in your battery, you will need to turn the engine off. Some batteries have a built-in hydrometer eye that tells you the amount of voltage remaining in the battery. If you prefer, a handheld hydrometer can be used to collect the same information.

While you’re inspecting your battery, look around for the manufacture date. Knowing how old your battery is can clue you in to when it will begin to lose charge. Shopping for a new battery? Never buy one with a six-month-old manufacture date.

Snow Tires

When it comes to really dealing with winter weather, your tires are out there mixing with the snow, sleet, and ice. Driving in snow can be very difficult and sometimes dangerous; still, the reality is you need to get to work.

Mounting the right tires on your car or truck can give you a huge advantage when trekking through snow. Many car makers and tire manufacturers recommend changing all four tires to snow tires in the winter. If you don’t swap all four, the difference between snow and summer tires can cause other problems for your vehicle.

If you live off the beaten path, you can even buy snow tires with studs to help you get where you’re going all winter long. When spring comes, though, you’ll be glad to get out of the heavy winter tires because your fuel efficiency and handling will improve with a less aggressive tire.

Another option is all-season tires that you drive year-round―winter and summer. The advantage of all-season tires is that you don’t change the tires before winter or need to keep two sets of rims. Of course, the disadvantage is that you don’t get all the great features of a specialized seasonal tire.

Windshield Treatment

An easily overlooked part of your winterizing program is your windshield. If you have ever driven behind another vehicle kicking up wet, dirty road snow, then you already have a true appreciation for windshield washer fluid.

For best results in clearing off cold, heavy grime, select a washer fluid with an antifreeze solution. But beware―some washer fluids can be harsh and damage your car’s paint.

Frozen Out

Door locks can freeze in cold weather and break your key if you try to force them open. The old fashion cure was warm water, but what if you’re not at home and don’t have any warm water nearby? Discount stores, auto parts stores, and even hardware stores sell glycerin you can use for de-icing. Think about where you keep it, however, because if the de-icer is in the glove box of your frozen-shut car, then it won’t help you any.

Stock a tube at home in the garage and also in your desk at work. That way whenever your locks freeze up, you’ll be able to solve the problem.

Emergency Kit

If you don’t already have an emergency kit in your car, consider putting together a few basics and stowing them in the trunk. Naturally, you’ll want to be sure your spare tire is in good shape with all the tools to change it out. But you might also want a few other emergency items in case you slide off the road and get stuck in a snow bank:

  • Flares
  • Gloves
  • Drinking Water
  • Phone Charger / Backup Battery Charger
  • Shovel
  • Radio
  • Engine oil
  • Washer fluid
  • Coolant
  • Flashlight

When you take the time to winterize your car, you become more comfortable driving in cold, snowy climates. A short commute quickly becomes difficult when your vehicle isn’t equipped to handle snow and ice. By planning ahead, you can make winterizing your vehicle an annual ritual in the name of safety and vehicle reliability.

Winter Weather Checklist

As we continue to experience freezing weather all across the country, it’s important to ensure your home is prepared for the plummeting temperatures.

A frozen pipe or collapsed roof will not only cost thousands of dollars in repairs to either you or your insurance company, but it will almost certainly displace you and your family from your home until the work is complete.

Below you will find a few tips on how to prevent potential damage to your property from freezing weather.

Also, if you would like to know how your homeowners insurance policy would respond to the scenarios below, please feel free to give our office a call.

WINTER WEATHER MAINTENANCE CHECKLIST

PREVENT ROOF COLLAPSE: Heavy snowfall can put a strain on a roof that could cause significant damage and even potential collapse. Unless your roof structure is damaged or decayed, most residential roofs, regardless of the location of the house, should be able to support 20 pounds of snow per square foot of roof space before they become stressed.Here’s how to determine the weight of snow/ice on your roof:

  • Fresh snow: 10-12 in. of new snow is equal to 1 inch of water, or about 5 lbs. per square foot of roof space, so you could have up to 4 ft. of new snow before the roof will become stressed.
  • Packed snow: 3-5 in. of old snow is equal to 1 inch of water, or about 5 lbs. per square foot of roof space, so anything more than 2 ft. of old snow could be too much for your roof to handle.
  • Total accumulated weight: 2 ft. of old snow and 2 ft. of new snow could weigh as much as 60 lbs. per square foot of roof space, which is beyond the typical snow load capacity for most roofs.
  • Ice: 1 inch of ice equals 1 ft. of fresh snow.
Snow Removal: If you feel the load on your roof exceeds 20-25 pounds per square foot, you should consider removing snow from your roof. For safe removal that won’t endanger you or damage your roof, use a snow rake with a long extension arm that will allow you to remove the snow while standing on the ground or hire a snow removal contractor.

PREVENT ICE DAMS: During freezing weather, heat from your home can escape through your roof and melt snow on your roof. The snowmelt can then trickle down to the roof’s edge and refreeze, creating an ice dam that leaves additional snowmelt with no place to go but possibly under your roof.

A two-step approach is the most effective way to reduce the size of ice dams. First, keep the attic floor well insulated to minimize the amount of heat from within the house that rises into the attic. Second, keep the attic well ventilated so that the cold air outside can circulate through it and reduce the temperature of the roof system. The colder the attic, the less thawing and refreezing on the roof.

Step One: Insulating the attic. The attic floor should be airtight, have sufficient insulation, and keep the transfer of heat from the downstairs to the attic at a minimum. Even a well-insulated attic floor may have a number of openings that can permit warm air from below to seep up into the attic. For instance, these items may cut through the attic floor:

  • Exhaust pipes and plumbing vents
  • Fireplace and heating system chimneys
  • Light fixtures

Seal all openings around these penetrations, but be careful not to block attic vents with insulation. Additionally, pull-down stairs or a set of regular stairs leading up to the attic from the lower level can be avenues for rising heat. Weatherstripping around the edges of the attic access door and insulation on the attic side of the door should minimize the passage of heat to the attic.

Step Two: Ventilating the attic. There are several ways to ventilate your attic. To the extent that household heat penetrates the attic, it should be able to rise and escape through, for instance, a ridge vent, while soffit or eave vents pull in cold air to replace it. Proper ventilation of the attic to let cold in, together with air sealing and insulation on the attic floor to help keep household heat out of the attic, work to minimize the likelihood of ice dams.

PREVENT FROZEN PIPES: Frozen pipes are one of the biggest risks of property damage when the temperature drops. In fact, a burst pipe can result in more than $5,000 in water damage. Prevent costly water damage caused by frozen pipes by using the following guidance.
  • Insulate all attic penetrations.
  • Ensure proper seals on all doors and windows.
  • Seal all wall cracks and penetrations, including electrical conduit and other utility service lines.
  • Place a monitored automatic excess flow switch on the main incoming domestic water line to provide early detection of a broken pipe or valve when the space is unoccupied.
INSTALL WEATHER STRIPPING AND SEALS: Prevent freezing temperatures from entering your home or business by installing weather stripping and seals. This offers two major benefits – it will keep severe winter weather out of your home or business and sealing your property shut also greatly increases energy efficiency by limiting drafts and reducing the amount of cold air that enters. Inspect the following areas of your home or business for leaks to determine possible areas to seal.
  • Windows and doors
  • Vents and fans
  • Plumbing
  • Air conditioners
  • Electrical and gas lines
  • Mail chutes