While most of the threat of snow is past by this time of year, Portlanders still know that “Winter” can last right up into May. Late Winter and Spring always see plenty of rain and the occasional hail or ice storm.
This time of year is when you can save money by making sure your car is ready for a Portland Spring. Altogether, these five winterizing tips will cost you less than $200 now vs. thousands of dollars in vehicle, insurance and healthcare costs if nothing is done.
Here are some simple tips to feel secure on the road, maintain your car and save money, courtesy of Ford Motor Company. I’m just passing them along:
1. Check your wipers and winter washer fluid: Low visibility can make driving in cold weather extremely dangerous, so it is important to make sure the wiper blades are up to par. Your wiper blades are made out of rubber, and with time they’ll crack, split and deteriorate. Worse, they old and worn wipers can easily scratch a windshield. Windshield wipers should be replaced every six to 12 months. Keeping your wiper fluid filled up is also a plus, as fluid can assist in breaking up snow and ice on the windshield.
Cost now: Approx. $39.95
Cost later: $440 to replace scratched windshield
2. Check and replace battery if necessary: If your battery is not that old, it is still good to take a look and make sure nothing’s wrong. Check the battery cables and clamps for fraying or corrosion. If there’s a white, powdery substance around the clamps, that’s corrosion from battery acid — you can clean it off easily with baking soda, water and a toothbrush. Your battery is also filled with fluid, so make sure it has enough inside. Most batteries have caps on top, and you can check the level by removing the caps. If it is low, fill the holes with distilled water, being careful not to fill past the bottom of the cap.
Cost now: Approx. $29.95 to cable cleaning and battery test
Cost later: $380 for a tow and battery
3. Get a coolant flush and fill: Flushing a radiator gets rid of contaminants and rust and prevents corrosion. Since the heating system works off of the same coolant that circulates throughout your engine, performing a coolant flush and fill will also prevent overheating – the most common cause of breakdowns and internal engine damage.
Cost now: Approx. $111.95
Cost later: New engines could run $5,000 if the engine block freezes
4. Check tires and tire pressure: Wet or icy roads can cause dangerous accidents in the winter, so it’s very important to make sure your tires are equipped to handle adverse weather conditions. If you choose to use regular tires on your car, check the air pressure on each tire. Deflated tires close up the tread and significantly decrease traction, increasing the likelihood of sliding on icy patches. Many gas stations have the tools available for you to check tire pressure, and it costs nothing or next to nothing to fill your tires with the right amount of air.
Cost now: $2 for a tire gauge or free at some service stations
Cost later: Hundreds of dollars a month in wasted gas due to tire pressure imbalance
5. Keep an Emergency Kit Inside Your Car: It’s a good idea to keep some extra material in the trunk in addition to your spare tire. Bottles of engine oil, washer fluid and coolant, flashlights and flares all come in handy. Even if you’re wearing a coat, an extra pair of gloves, boots or even a blanket can keep you warm and dry if your heating unit isn’t working properly.
Cost now: Approx. $25
Cost later: Medical-related costs or worse
The bottom line is easy – a little care for your car today can mean a lot in the future.