How to Winterize Your Family’s Car

Knowing how to winterize your family's car in metro Detroit is vital. Owners of two family-run garages in southeast Michigan share their top tips for drivers.

Winterizing your family’s car is crucial – ideally before the Michigan weather gets gnarly.

“The thing is here, you never know when it’s going to hit,” says Clint Shelton, mechanic and owner of Clint’s Auto Repair Downriver in Lincoln Park, which he opened with his wife in September 2016. “Especially with our climate changes, (it) puts the strain on a car.”

Read on for a few tips from southeast Michigan auto pros on getting your car ready for winter – and keeping you and your kids safe on the road this snow season.

Check your tires

“Tire condition is really important,” Shelton says. Tim Aeck Jr., who co-owns Tim’s Complete Auto Maintenance in Shelby Township, open since 1986, adds, “Your tire pressure is going to drop a pound per 10 degrees.”

That means less traction – and less control – when you hit the slippery spots.

Aeck Jr. recommends checking tire pressure any time there’s a big temp change. To fill your tires to the right “pounds per square inch,” or PSI, look at the label inside your door and not the max PSI on the wall of your tires.

Check your spare, too, adds Shelton; it loses pressure over time.

Also, check out your tires’ tread depth. Do this with a tire tread depth gauge from an auto parts store. Or, Aeck Jr. says, place a penny upside-down in several areas of tread. If you see all of Lincoln’s head, your treads are less than 2/32-inch deep – considered “bald” – and it’s time to replace them.

How’s your battery?

A good battery for winter is a must. Aeck Jr. says cold weather “exposes all the weak batteries.” The chill “knocks it down about 20 percent.”

So if your battery is 20 percent weaker at the start of the season, the temp drop brings it down 20 percent more, leaving you with 60 percent power.

“Now you’re starting to notice slow cranks (and) dead batteries.” Have your level tested at your next oil change or inspection – or stock jumper cables.

Fluids, wiper blades, lights

Ensure you’re able to see, and be seen, in the dark and snow flurries. “Make sure you’ve got good wiper blades,” says Aeck Jr.

Check that headlights, tail lights and blinkers all work. See that wiper blades are in good condition and you’ve got plenty of washer fluid. “(In) nasty weather, you tend to use the heck out of it,” Aeck Jr. says.

Shelton adds to top off all of your fluids and keep coolant at the proper freeze point (check this with a tester, available for a few dollars at auto stores).

3 must-haves

If you’re looking for essential items to stock in your family car this winter, keep these items in your trunk, Tim’s Complete Auto Maintenance notes:

  1. Blanket and candles. “You can get some heat” if you break down, Aeck Jr. says, and a light source.
  2. Small snow shovel. In case you’ve got to dig your car out.
  3. Salt, sand or rubber floor mats. They provide traction to free your car from ice or snow.

Ask the pros

Want an expert opinion? Both shops offer free inspections. Learn more about Clint’s Auto Repair Downriver at clintsautorepair.com and Tim’s Complete Auto Maintenance at timscompleteauto.net.

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