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Winterize Your Car, Travel Safely & Be More Efficient

December 13, 2010


With the holidays just around the corner, many people will hop in their cars and head out of town to spend time with family and friends. But not so fast! For the safest, most efficient way to travel – take a look at these tips on how to winterize your car or truck while keeping conscious of the environment:

  1. Check your tires’ air pressure to make sure you’re driving with the recommended amount of air. If you drive a car, the air pressure in your tires should not be any lower than 30 lbs. John Fizer, an automotive salesman at Jiffy Lube in Columbia, suggests that tires have about 35 lbs of pressure in the winter. Most tires on trucks require a minimum of 50 lbs, but in the winter Fizer says there should be between 55-65 lbs of air pressure in your tires. But, every car is different. So to be sure which PSI is right for your car or truck, check your owners manual.Did you know you should test the air pressure in your tires once every week? Mark Kettler, a customer service representative from the Sears Auto Department, says you should test the air pressure at the same time, on the same day every week to have consistent readings. With the temperature changing more frequently during the winter, its more likely that the PSI or pounds per square inch can change over night and even in the middle of the day. (Warmer air expands the tire while cooler air decompresses the tire.) If your tires are too low, you could be losing up to 5% of gas mileage. So do your car, tires, and wallet a favor, and be sure to check your tires the next time you fill up, especially if you plan on taking a road trip.If you need new tires, try donating your old ones to be recycled and reused for playground material or contribute asphalt for new roads. You should be able to donate tires where you buy new ones.
  2. In the winter, it is important to not let your gas level get below a quarter of a tank. This is because the more air in your tank can cause it to freeze, prohibiting your car from starting. Fizer recommends the safest way to pump your gas is NOT to auto-fill your tank, or using the hook on the pump to fill your gas tank while you run back into your comfortably heated car. Instead, bring a winter coat to the gas station and hold the pump almost to full throttle. This will pump less fumes and more gas into your tank. Kettler says it is vital to keep moisture out of your gas tank. He recommends HEET, a fuel injection cleaner that removes water and prevents rust and corrosion. You can purchase this product at most any auto parts store.Other tips to help save gas, in the winter or any time of year, is to keep your windows up when you drive. This seems simple enough, but it’s actually important. Keeping your windows up and locked makes your car more aerodynamic and you will be able to travel longer on the same tank of gas. Also, Fizer suggests you change your air filter every 15,000 miles. This can save you up to 15% of gas mileage. If you plan on traveling on the highway this holiday season, try maintaining a steady speed by using cruise control. But remember, every time you increase your speed by 5 mph OVER 65 mph, your car loses 2% of gas mileage. Lower RPMs = better gas mileage.
  3. De-clutter your car! Unload those unnecessary items in your trunk and back-seat. The more weight you carry, the less fuel efficient your car is. But, before you close your trunk, put together an Emergency kit and toss it in. In my emergency kit, I have a snow scraper, extra anti-freeze, extra coolant, extra oil, jumper cables, a flash light, and a flashing hazard light if I need to get out of my car. When I know I am traveling for long periods of time, I also bring a fleece blanket just in case my car dies and I am unable to use my heater. Several websites also recommend a shovel and chains for your tires.
  4. Both reps from Sears and Jiffy Lube recommend replacing your windshield washer fluid with de-icer windshield washer fluid for the Winter. This will help ease the tedious process of scraping your windshield. If you normally use water, this can make your windshield even more icy if temperatures are cold enough. Also recommended is replacing your windshield wipers at least once a year.
  5. And finally, winter weather usually means snow and ice. Especially in Mid-Missouri. The city of Columbia used to use sand to cover ice on the roads, but recently they’ve switched to salt. This can cause harmful rust underneath the body and on the doors of your car or truck. Take your car through the car wash, or rinse it off yourself if you can brave the cold, if you have to drive on roads with salt. This will prevent your car from corrosion. A happy car, after all, has a happy owner.
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