Winter is coming for your car

Preparing your vehicle for cold and wet weather

car on wet road at night, view of headlights SAFE TRAVELS Hazy headlamps, cracked wiper blades and poor tread can severely impact safety on the road.

With summer in the rearview mirror and winter on the horizon, it’s time to get your vehicle ready for the cold and wet weather. Regular maintenance of the battery, wipers, tires and headlights can help keep you and your vehicle safe when road conditions take a turn for the worse.    


Everything starts with the battery, literally. The battery powers the starter motor and all the various relays and control modules that make the vehicle function properly. Extreme weather can have an effect on the performance of the battery. A weak battery may not show any signs of trouble, so it is best to have it tested by a reputable repair facility or an automotive parts store to be certain.


Windshield wipers clear the windshield of rainwater and other debris that would otherwise obstruct the front glass. Wiper blades are considered to be a “wearable” item, and after baking in the hot sun all summer, they may need to be replaced. The rubber can become hard and no longer flex to the curves of the glass. If your wipers streak or skip, it’s time for a new set, and don’t forget about the rear wiper if you have an SUV or wagon.   


Tires are the one thing on your vehicle that actually keep you connected to the road. Maintaining the air pressure in the tires to the vehicle manufacturer’s specifications—usually located on the driver’s door jam or fuel filler flap—keeps the vehicle in the safe range with the proper tire-to-road contact. Never fill the tires to the maximum pressure listed on the sidewall of the tire. Proper tread depth allows the tire to shed water and can help prevent your vehicle from hydroplaning. recommends the penny test to check the tread depth of a vehicle’s tires by inserting the penny into the groove with Lincoln’s head upside down. If all of Lincoln’s head is visible, it’s time to replace your tires. Tires can wear unevenly so always check the tread at both the inside and outside edges as well as the center of the tire on all four tires.


Hazy or foggy headlamp lenses can seriously diminish the effective output of the headlights. This reduces the distance the light can shine in front of a vehicle, limiting the time to assess for hazards.

According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drivers need about 1.5 seconds to stop for an object 160 feet in front of them. A vehicle traveling at 65 mph covers more than 95 feet per second. At higher speeds, the distance is only increased.

Following proper maintenance can ensure that your vehicle’s reliability and safety features function as the manufacturer intended. However, decreasing vehicle speed and increasing the distance between you and others when the weather gets rough may be the best way to prevent you and your vehicle from having to use those life-saving features.

Gary Stockdale
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About Gary Stockdale
Gary Stockdale is a freelance writer for South Valley magazine and has 20 years of experience in the automotive industry.