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Plan Well, Retire Well

Saving and investing your money

Winterizing your Car: Your Winter Weather Financial Guide

After driving around the last two winters in Texas – I had a wake up call when we had snow in Illinois just a few weeks ago. Being completely caught off guard this early in the year, I have been scrambling to prepare because let's face it: winter is coming. In preparing for the upcoming season of ice and snow, one of the things I find easiest to forget about is making sure my car is readily equipped to handle winter weather without issue. This year I plan to change that habit and would like to share some quick and easy tips to take into account for this upcoming season:

Winter Car Checklist:

  • Make sure you change the oil in your car on time and regularly – usually the rule of thumb to follow is to change your oil every 3,000 miles.
  • Keep your tire pressure in check according to the recommended values listed on the side of your tire. Cold winter air causes tire pressure to decrease and can cause you to lose gas mileage.
  • Make sure that your car's tires have the correct treading for snow and other winter weather. Most cars are equipped with all-weather tires, however it is important to be sure so that you do not find yourself in a ditch the next time is snows.
  • Purchase windshield wiper fluid with a freezing temperature below zero degrees Fahrenheit. If you live anywhere in the Midwest north of St. Louis chances are you will see days where the temperature drops well below zero causing your windshield to ice up in snowy conditions.
  • Check out the condition of windshield wipers. Often broken wipers can cause salt or other debris on the road to smudge your windshield reducing visibility.
  • Purchase or prepare a winter emergency kit for the car – complete with blankets, a flashlight, flares, a few water bottles, and anything else you may need.
  • Remember to keep the fuel tank full – that way when it does get really cold, condensation won't form on the tank – keeping water from finding its way into the fuel lines
  • Keep a separate emergency fund just for car repairs – This allows you to take care of unexpected expenses like car tire blow-outs or dead car batteries
  • Keep an ice scraper or two on hand (One for in the house, one for in the car)
  • Purchase a snow car cover. (I found a few online with good reviews. This will save me time from scraping the ice off my front window)
  • Drive slow when winter weather hits! Often ice on roads is not visible and is extremely dangerous especially when you are driving fast. Paying attention to your speed and places that it is most common such as on or underneath bridges can save you from having to tow your car to the mechanic shop.

By not preparing in advance to winterize your car, you could be setting yourself up for a potential financial pickle. Recently I had a friend who didn't check their tire pressure and had a tire blow-out while driving on a major highway. Thankfully the highway was pretty empty and my friend had a spare tire. But it ended up costing around $180 for two new tires, and labor. A decent tired pressure gauge can be less than $10.00. This is just one example of how preparing in advance can save you money. These may be small things now, but they'll keep you from having a major financial headache down the road.

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