How to keep your wheels road-worthy

How to keep your wheels road-worthy
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Goodbye Lyft. Hello new ride. Scoring your first set of wheels is massive. From road trips to late-night snack runs, you’ve got the world at your fingertips.

Just like everything else in life, your car needs a little attention — especially during cold weather, when rain and freezing temps can put extra wear on your ride. When it comes to car care, it’s far better to keep up on maintenance than to let things slide and risk having to shell out for a big repair. Here’s what to do to keep your wheels rolling:

Watch the battery

Did you know cold weather can sap your battery life? At zero degrees Fahrenheit, your car battery has about half the power it would on an 80-degree day. To avoid any unpleasant surprises when you turn on your car, consult your owner’s manual to find out how to check your battery’s capacity. You can also have it tested at a service station, auto parts store or repair shop. If it’s more than five years old and showing signs of weakness, it might be time for a new one.

Replace your wiper blades

Driving in a downpour is safer when you’ve got good wipers, but they wear out faster than you think. If they start leaving streaks or missing sections of the windshield, it’s time for new wiper blades. Consumer Reports recommends replacing them every six months. Also, keep your wiper fluid topped off with a washer solution that includes anti-freeze.

Stay on top of oil changes

Chilly weather causes motor oil to thicken, which makes it harder for the engine to turn over. Regular oil changes, as specified in your owner’s manual, are the key to keeping your motor humming. For winter, use oil with a “W” in the viscosity index (5W-20, 5W-30 or 10W-30 are the most common types) to ensure good oil flow when it’s cold. Whenever you change your oil, you should also check your anti-freeze, which is what keeps your engine from freezing in winter. If you get your oil changed at a shop, they can take care of this for you.

Keep your tires inflated

Your tires lose air whenever the temperature plummets, compromising your car’s safety. You can fill them up at a gas station, but it might be worth investing in a portable air compressor so you can easily top them off when needed. While you’re at it, check the tread for signs of wear. If it snows, your safety will depend on how much traction your tires have. When the time comes to replace them, keep in mind that it’s safest to do all four at once.

Fill it up

Who doesn’t love having a full tank of gas? Your car loves it too, especially in winter. A full tank can help prevent accumulated water from freezing in the fuel pump. Plus, if you get stuck in the snow, a full tank means you can keep the car running to stay warm.

Stock your emergency kit

You never know what you might encounter on the road. While roadside assistance can help you out of most situations, a well stocked-car is like your very own Batmobile — - equipped for almost any situation, save for vigilante crime fighting.

Make sure you always keep a few basics on hand, including:

  • Jumper cables or portable jump starter.
  • Ice scraper and portable shovel in case of snow.
  • First-aid kit.
  • Flashlight with backup batteries.
  • Boots, hat and a poncho for when you’re driving in cold or rainy weather.
  • Wipes or rags for those inevitable messes.
  • Blanket, water and long-lasting food in case you get stranded.
  • Cell phone charger.
  • Spare tire, jack and lug wrench in case you need to change your own flat.

When it comes to your car, a little love goes a long way. Follow these tips to stay safe and comfortable wherever you go.