Compared to any other season, driving in cold weather for winter camping, even in the best off-road vehicles, is more difficult because of the unpredictable weather. There’s snow, sleet, ice, and freezing wind that sometimes stack together to give you stressful and dangerous driving conditions. Federal data shows icy roads cause over 150,000 car accidents in the US. Besides the weather, the days are also shorter in winter, which translates to more time driving in the dark.
Don’t be part of the statistics. If you have a used car you’ve recently purchased, whether it’s an RV, 4×4, SUV, etc., here are some tips to ensure that your vehicle is in tip-top shape and ready to face winter camping.
1. Check Your Lights
Winter camping means longer nights, so expect to drive with your headlights on for more extended periods. Since you and your car lights are expected to spend a lot of time together this winter, you must check if they’re working correctly. Do physical checks to make sure the lenses are clear and the fog lights are working. If you have any doubts, change the lights before winter comes to ensure they will work without a problem.
2. Check Your Car’s Fluids
Before winter comes, check all the fluids in your car and make sure they are topped up. You can do this yourself if you are confident enough, but if not, you can take it to your local garage and have a mechanic do it for you.
Antifreeze. Antifreeze prevents your engine from freezing during the cold weather. You want to make sure the fluid is between the min and max marker. During winter, you want to have a ratio of 40% water and 60% antifreeze. In freezing weather, you ideally want to increase the antifreeze to 70%.
Engine Oil. Low engine oil is the cause of common car breakdowns, not to mention engine damage. Check the level of your engine oil by opening the hood and pulling out the dipstick. The stick will be full of oil, so wipe it with a rag or paper towel. Put the rod back and pull it back up again. The level of the oil should be in between the min and max levels.
Windscreen Wash. Ensure that your car is ready for rain and dirt coming from winter by making sure your windscreen wash is topped up, so your visibility is not restricted. Most car models don’t have a windscreen wash level. You can manually check it by pushing the windscreen water level lever. If no water comes out, the water level is low. Use a windscreen wash from your local supermarket or auto store to top it up.
Brake Fluid. If you want to check the brake fluid level of your car, locate the reservoir. You might want to check the owner’s manual to check where the reservoir is located. Once you find it, look at the side of it. The liquid should be in between the min and max marker (like the engine oil). It’s highly recommended that you take it to a local auto shop if you need to change it, especially if you haven’t done it before. Brake fluids are very sensitive, and it can affect even your brakes if a tiny amount of dirt falls into them.
3. Check Your Battery
Winter’s cold weather can break down your battery as well as accelerate the rate of corrosion on your battery terminals. Old batteries have a hard time starting up your car, or worse, can leave you stranded. The last thing you want when out on a winter camping trip is a dead vehicle. Check your battery cables. Make sure they are clean and attached well to the terminals. Also, remember that batteries have a service life of anywhere from three to five years.
4. Check Your Tires
Winter is famous for icy roads, so it’s essential to check and ensure your tires are in good condition. If you can, you might want to invest in winter tires for your new, used car. These tires are made from rubber and have a tread depth pattern that’s flexible in low temperatures. Snow chains are also a great thing to have on your tires during winter.
Whether you have snow tires or just regular ones, check that your tire’s tread depths are acceptable; the legal limit is 1.6 mm, so your tires should not fall below that. If you can, aim for 3 mm tread depth.
5. Check your Emergency Kit
Sometimes despite all the checks, things can still happen, so make sure you are prepared. Check that you have all the tools needed in your boot – spare tires, tire jacks, etc. If you’re going on a trip, it’s a good idea to have an emergency kit ready. This kit can have items like a blanket, de-icer, scraper, extra phone battery, food, drinks, and whatever else you think you might need while waiting for help.