• Car Care

How to Prepare Your Car for Winter Driving

By Judy Curry
Curry’s Auto Service

Are you preparing for a road trip this winter? You aren’t alone. We know you are excited and busy, but an ounce of prevention just may be the best gift you can give your family this year.

We recently asked car expert and auto writer Alison Lakin to share tips on how to prepare your car—and yourself—for that great holiday road trip.

Judy Curry: When should you get your car serviced?

Alison Lakin: With your vehicle about to hit the road, it’s important to make sure that everything’s running smoothly. There are a few key areas to which you should pay special attention:

1. Check the fluids: The various fluids under the hood keep the mechanicals in your car from seizing and freezing, which means it’s vital to check and change them if necessary. We’re talking about oil, transmission, and brake fluid.

2. Make sure the coolant system is cool: Extreme temperatures force the coolant system to work overtime. Have the antifreeze, hoses, and radiator checked.

3. Windshield wipers rule: Bad windshield wipers can make driving in the rain the stuff of nightmares. If your blades are more than six months old, odds are it’s time to swap them out for new ones.

4. Kick the tires: Have your tires rotated and inspected. The last thing you need in cold, wet weather is to be driving on bald tires. Now’s the time to err on the side of caution and replace any tires that are too worn. Yours are good to go? Doublecheck the tire pressure against the manufacturer’s specifications when the tires are nice and cold, and add air if needed. This helps with fuel economy as well.

Judy Curry: We love emergency kits, and know they can save you time, money—and even your life, if you ever get into a pinch. From your point of view, why do you think that emergency kits are so important to have in the car?

Alison Lakin: We can hear our mothers now: “Better safe than sorry!” We imagine it was repeated ad nauseam in your house, too.

They have a point though. When temperatures dip, having car trouble can go from being an annoyance to a danger. Stock your car with the right supplies for that “just in case” moment.

  • For getting out of trouble: Jumper cables, small shovel, sand or kitty litter for traction, and flares.
  • The necessary tools: Flashlight, small knife, ice scraper, and rope.
  • Added protection: Blankets, energy bars, water, waterproof matches, first-aid kit, and gloves.

Judy Curry: Is it also important to safeguard the interior of your car?

Alison Lakin: On a road trip, it’s a given that you’re going to spend a lot of time ducking in and out of the car. With winter weather a factor, you might want to grab some all-weather floor mats.

They’re easy to clean and do a great job of keeping the muck in one place. Also handy: a spot-remover spray, durable paper towels or a cloth, and a trash can (or dedicated trash bag). Those burgers and fries make for messy meals.

Judy Curry: Some people think that videos in the car aren’t a healthy solution to boredom for the kids. Do you agree?

Alison Lakin: Not really. We think that keeping passengers entertained is important for two reasons. First, it keeps everyone sane during the long journey, and we know how crazy it can get on road trips.

And more importantly, it also keeps them from distracting the driver. Tools of the trade include games, books, DVDs, a sing-a-long set list (the cheesier the better), and some car-friendly arts and crafts (see my comments above on protecting the interior!).

Judy Curry: What other things are important for holiday travelers to keep in mind?

Alison Lakin: Before leaving home, always do a little research about your route, and your destination.

1. Know state laws: If you’re entering new territory, know what the cell phone and snow chains laws are before you find yourself encountering the local law enforcement.

2. Map your route: Navigation maps on your phone or GPS device have become a key item in the road warrior’s toolbox. They’re great for rerouting, arrival time estimates, and on-the-fly route planning.

3. Check the weather: That way, you know what to plan for along the route.

Judy Curry: Thanks so much for your time, Alison! This is great information, and we know our customers will benefit from your insights and ideas.

About Judy Curry

Judy Curry, Curry Auto’s chief marketing officer, has a Business Management degree from George Mason University.

When she and her husband Matt opened up the first Curry’s Auto Service shop in Chantilly in 1998, Judy was responsible for maintaining the books, paperwork, payroll, and a variety of other vital administrative functions needed to keep the business going.

Once the company grew, she took on all the marketing and advertising responsibility, a job she thoroughly enjoys. She is instrumental in creating a safe and comfortable repair shop environment for her female colleagues and friends. This effort, along with several Car Care and Driving clinics she conducts every year, got her recognized in 2009 by the Washington Business Journal as one of their “Women Who Mean Business” Awards.

She currently serves as an expert advisor on the AskPatty Board of Advisors and writes newsletters and other car-related articles for publications, including, I AM Modern. Judy enjoys all winter sports and is an avid runner and devoted wife and mom to her two children.

Need more information about how to care for your car? Contact Judy at judy@currysauto.com.

For more information about Curry’s Auto Service, visit www.currysauto.com.