Heading out by truck in winter-weather can be dangerous. Even when the roads are in good condition, it’s important to know that your rig is in good condition as well. That means routine maintenance and check-ups, which will not only ensure your truck is winter-ready, but will also improve your gas mileage, reduce emissions, and possibly detect or prevent bigger issues down the line.
There’s nothing to fear about winter driving if you’re appropriately prepared. If you run through this checklist, you’ll be ready to ride with pride across any winter wonderland.
Correct any engine performance problems – If you’ve been experiencing hard starts, rough idling, stalling, or any other performance issues, get them looked at by a professional! All of these things could lead to bigger problems down the line if they’re not handled quickly, and the cold weather is bound to make them worse. You can also ask a tech to do a general check-up on the tightness and condition of your belts, clamps, and hoses, as well as the condition of your brakes and transmission. Remember, the only thing worse than breaking down on the roadside, is breaking down on the roadside in the bitter cold.
Check the heater and defroster – Before heading out on any long winter’s drive, you need to make sure your defroster is up to snuff. Without a working defroster you’ll go from looking through your windshield to staring at a frosty white wall in just a matter of minutes.
Add Fuel De-Icer – Adding Fuel De-Icer to your gas tank prevents moisture from forming, and as a result prevents your fuel line from freezing. This can really make or break you, especially in an older model truck. You can pour a bottle of De-Icer into your take about once a month throughout the winter.
Replace your old filters – Your filters need replacing every once in a while, and the start of winter is a great time to think about it. A clean air filter, fuel filter, and PCV filter will make your engine run smoother, more efficiently, and with better gas mileage.
Stay up to date on your oil changes – Regular oil changes are essential, and often overlooked. To stay up to date, it’s important to check your manual and see how many miles your model can go on one tank of oil. If you’re paying somebody to do it for you, they’re likely to slap a sticker on the windshield that underestimates your trucks potential. It’s up to you to be aware of your truck’s oil needs, and to stay on top of it.
Flush and refill your cooling system – As recommended, you should check the levels of your coolant just as often as you check your oil levels. For most models, a 50/50 mix of antifreeze and water will do the trick. Just remember to let your engine cool before you open the radiator cap. Right after driving, the contents under the cap are going to be very hot, and highly pressurized – opening it too quickly is a recipe for a serious burn.
Top off your wiper fluid – Make sure your wiper fluid is in good shape, and that it’s of the non-freezing persuasion. There’s nothing worse than trying to spray off some winter grime, only to realize your wiper fluid is frozen solid. While you’re at it, check the edge of your wiper blades. Old wiper blades are easy to adjust to and forget about – a fresh set can really surprise you.
Check your battery – You can ask your mechanic to take a look at your battery, an accurate test will require professional equipment. However, routine maintenance is easy enough to do at home. Grab your goggles, gloves, and a steel brush and you can easily scrape away any corrosion you see, just try not to touch any.
Check all your lights – Put your hazard lights on and walk around your vehicle to ensure each blinker, headlight, and taillight are working. You can usually ask a friend to verify that your reverse lights are coming on properly. Cleaning your headlights can also make a big impact on their brightness. You can find a DIY kit at most auto stores, and this may sound odd, but you can also use toothpaste and a toothbrush instead. Trust us, it works wonders – just make sure it’s not your regular toothbrush, you won’t want to put it back in your mouth when you’re down.
Check your tires – Do you know about the penny test? Take a penny and place it in your tire treads. Lincoln’s head should be buried by rubber. If you can see his entire head, it’s time for new tires. Decent tires are always essential, but especially under winter conditions. Beyond the penny test, you should be checking your tire pressure at least once a month to ensure you’re getting the best performance out of your truck. Also, make sure your spare and your jack are onboard and in good shape.
Pack an emergency kit – What you need in it is up to you, and should be influenced by where you are driving. If you tend to stay in the city, road flares may not be necessary, but they could be essential for long country drives. Other good items to include are sand or kitty litter for traction, tire chains, a flashlight, a car charger for your cell phone, and of course gloves, boots, and blankets.
Consider a snow plow – If you want to turn your truck into an unstoppable winter warrior, a personal snow plow is the perfect solution. That way even thick ice and tall snow drifts will be no match for your rig.
If you cross off all the items on this list, you and your truck will be undoubtedly winter-ready. And remember, all makes and models are different, so be sure to familiarize yourself with your owner’s manual, err on the side of caution, and stay warm out there!
Jake McKenzie is the Content Manager for Snow Plows Direct, a fast-growing online retailer of snow plows and salt spreaders.