In the Bay Area, we enjoy a mild climate. But if you plan to travel this holiday season, you may be driving in areas with colder temperatures and maybe even winter weather. Even if the pandemic has you keeping your social circle small and staying closer to home, whether you’re a serious DIYer and enjoy being hands-on with your vehicle or you prefer to have a shop take care of this for you, it’s a good time to check our your vehicle’s systems to help ensure trouble-free motoring.
Battery and Charging System – Have the battery and charging system tested by a trained technician. A fully charged battery in good condition is required to start an engine in cold weather. A battery that was getting a little weak was up to the job in warmer weather, with no noticeable drop in performance. But as the temperature drops, battery output is reduced, and engine oil gets thicker, which makes the engine harder to turn over. A shop, or even some parts stores, can check the battery’s power output and not just its state of charge. Although it’s not unheard of for batteries to last six or seven years, it is also common for batteries to fail as early as two or three years, especially if they’ve been in a high-temperature location or subjected to excessive vibration, which is often because of a loose or missing hold-down.
Battery Cables and Terminals – Make sure the battery terminals and cable ends are free of corrosion and the connections are tight. If you choose to clean them yourselves, you can use a solution of baking soda and water. Be sure to wear goggles to keep the green gunk and acid out of your eyes!
Drive Belts – Inspect the underside of accessory drive belts for cracks or fraying. Many newer multi-rib “serpentine” belts are made of materials that do not show obvious signs of wear; to ensure they do not slip, these belts should be checked with a plastic belt-wear gauge (often available at parts store counters), or replaced at 60,000-mile intervals if there is any doubt.
Engine Hoses – Inspect cooling system hoses for leaks, cracks or loose clamps. Also, squeeze the hoses and replace any that are brittle or have an excessively spongy feeling, which indicates internal wear. This means the hose is getting thin and increases the chance of a burst hose, or at the least a pinhole leak.
Tire Type and Tread – Drivers in heavy-snow areas often swap out their summer tires for dedicated snow tires for the best winter traction. These will perform the best in heavy snow and frigid temperatures on even a dry road. In the Bay Area, all-season tires are a good compromise and will work well in light-to -moderate snow conditions, provided they have adequate tread depth. Replace any tire that has less than 3/32-inches of tread. Uneven tire wear can indicate alignment, wheel balance, or suspension problems that must be addressed to prevent further tire damage.
Tire Pressure – For the best tire wear and traction, it’s a good idea to check tire inflation pressure on all four tires (don’t forget the spare) periodically. As the temperature changes, so will tire pressures – typically by one PSI for every 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Proper tire pressure levels can be found in the owner’s manual or on a sticker, typically located on the driver’s side door jamb.
Air Filter – Check the engine air filter by holding it up to a 60-watt light bulb. If light can be seen through much of the filter, it is still clean enough to work effectively. However, if light is blocked by most of the filter, replace it.
Coolant Levels – Check the coolant level in the overflow tank when the engine is cold. If the level is low, add a 50/50 solution of coolant and distilled water to maintain the necessary antifreeze capability. Test the antifreeze protection level annually with an inexpensive tester available at any auto parts store.
Lights – Check the operation of all headlights, taillights, brake lights, turn signals, emergency flashers and back-up lights. Replace any burned-out bulbs.
Wiper Blades – The blades should completely clear the glass with each swipe. Replace any blade that leaves streaks or misses spots. Examine for tearing near the ends of the blade. If you’re traveling to an area where snow is common, you can even install winter wiper blades that wrap the blade frame in a rubber boot to reduce ice and snow buildup that can prevent good contact between the blade and the glass.
Washer Fluid – If you think you’ll be traveling to an area with colder temperatures, fill the windshield washer fluid reservoir with a winter cleaning solution that has antifreeze components to prevent it from freezing. You won’t need to change back to a “summer” formula when you return to warmer weather.
Brakes – If there is any indication of a brake problem, have the system inspected by a certified technician to ensure all components are in good working order. Brakes should apply smoothly, with very little squealing, groaning, or grinding noises (hard stops that engage antilock brakes often result in unusual noises, however.)
Transmission, Brake and Power Steering Fluids – Check all fluids to ensure they are at or above the minimum safe levels. Refer to your owner’s manual for additional information.
Emergency Road Kit – Carry an emergency kit equipped for winter weather. The kit should include:
Mobile phone programmed with rescue apps and important phone numbers, including family and emergency services, and car charger
Non-perishable snacks for both human and pet passengers
Bag of abrasive material (sand, salt, cat litter) or traction mats
Extra warm clothing (gloves, hats, scarves)
Flashlight with extra batteries
Window washer solvent
Ice scraper with brush
Cloth or roll of paper towels
Warning devices (flares or triangles)
About Peninsula Auto Body
We live and work within the San Francisco Peninsula area. Our commitment to the community extends from helping our customers to helping our team members and right into the community itself. At Peninsula Auto Body, we are neighbors helping neighbors, especially after an automotive accident. From towing to filing claims to making sure you have transportation while we fix your vehicle, as your neighbor, we’ll help take care of you. We’re here in your time of need. If you have questions or comments, please contact us by calling us at 650.588.0999, or visiting our website.