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5 Vehicle Items to Check Before the Winter Season! To Save Yourself Money in the Long Run

Of all the seasons, winter is probably the one which requires most care and preparation if you want to stay safe on the road. Here are our top 5 automobile systems for you to check before you hit the snow covered roads. In fact, do yourself a favor and check them before the snow season. Also, to avoid high cost of repairs and or towing as illustrated below.

Cost of Not Doing Regular Mainetance

This chart illustrates how much car repair bills will cost if you a driver doesn't do the regular maintenance on a vehicle.

Note: Not doing regular maintenance could result in mechanical repairs to your vehicle. A little maintenance could save you thousands in the long run.

This is a second chart illustrating how much car repair bills will cost if a driver doesn't do regular maintenance on a vehicle.

Antifreeze

Get winterized when it’s appropriate in your area. For us, that’s early November, but you know when your local winter arrives. Do it earlier than later – a busted radiator is way more expensive than a bottle of antifreeze. Check the levels regularly, and if you aren’t sure get the guy at the local car shop to make sure you’re good to go. In a pinch, you can also add antifreeze to screen wash so all the pipes don’t crack – but be careful, the stuff can strip paint! Better to get low temp appropriate screen wash. A local convenient store is a good place to buy some.

Average Cost of Repair by State

StateRepairsInsuranceGasoline
Alabama$352$793$1,237
Alaska $341$1,077$730
Arizona $362$963$888
Arkansas $361$813$1,055
California $390$906$940
Colorado$385$848$890
Connecticut $385$1,058$929
Delaware $314$1,110$967
Florida $377$1,124$1,015
Georgia $385$927$1,096
Hawaii $370$906$869
Idaho $349$664$988
Illinois$343$805$852
Indiana $329$709$1,162
Iowa $315$630$998
Kansas $352$764$991
Kentucky$367$848$1,073
Louisiana $354$1,277$924
Maine $328$682$1,109
Maryland $388$1,030$951
Massachusetts $358$984$827
Michigan $317$1,064$994
Minnesota $346$782$1,033
Mississippi $356$901$1,231
Missouri $353$780$1,099
Montana$360$822$1,067
Nebraska $347$709$1,025
Nevada $364$1,078$771
New Hampshire $328$767$975
New Jersey $393$1,244$783
New Mexico $345$895$1,131
New York $365$1,196$713
North Carolina $390$708$1,032
North Dakota $344$662$1,207
Ohio $328$698$947
Oklahoma $338$839$1,175
Oregon $380$807$893
Pennsylvania$364$908$781
Rhode Island $371$1,142$800
South Carolina $368$860$958
South Dakota $312$654$1,056
Tennessee $353$762$1,021
Texas $364$1,001$860
Utah $371$810$918
Vermont $270$730$1,178
Virginia $382$758$964
Washington $375$910$866
West Virginia $310$975$1,033
Wisconsin $329$658$1,031
Wyoming$324$792$1,588

*Only average on typical repairs and regular maintenance. The longer a vehicle goes without regular seasonal maintenance the repair bill increases.

Electrics

The battery is often a cause for breakdown. They just struggle in the freezing cold. If yours is more than 5 years old, get it checked out. For older vehicles, turn off lights, etc. once you’re done using them. If there’s a vehicle you don’t use much, trickle charging helps (or be prepared to spend time on the day you do want it). *Trickle charging is charging a full battery under no-load at its self discharge rate enabling the battery to maintain its fully charged level.

Fuel & Supplies

Get em! Always keep at least ¼ in your gas tank. Winter can easily cause highway delays and you don’t want to run out of gas at the wrong time (you need to run the engine to heat the car, right!) Awesome table here to tell you how far you can drive on empty.

Consider your own supplies too. I usually have spare clothes in case of snow related accidents, blankets, appropriate snacks (stuff that won’t go off over winter and won’t freeze), a snow shovel and grit/gravel.

You might need to consider some sort of fluids depending on where you are. At worst, think about what’s in your trunk and ask yourself if you could spend the night stranded with what you have. 21st Century has a great article about preparing your vehicle for winter and recommends keeping an emergency kit in your vehicle.

Lights & Vision

Check and clean your lights regularly. Get all the road salt and other junk off. Remember if you have to scrape snow off the windshield, you need to check/scrape the lights too. We use the lights a lot in winter – carry spare bulbs (and know how to change them!).

Poor road vision is a high cause of accidents. If you are in an accident follow these steps:

Make sure everyone is OK, then call the police.
Call your insurance company.
Gather Information
Do not admit guilt.
Keep a tally on repair bills.

Keep your glass clean – glare from winter lights or low sun through the windows can stop you seeing the road. Check your wipers regularly too, especially if you’ve been running them over a little ice from time to time.

Tires & Chains

Get and use what’s appropriate for your area. Again, in our area we change to winter tires in November but seldom need chains. Find out what’s appropriate to your conditions and use it in good time – don’t wait until you slide into a ditch to think about it. Make sure there’s plenty of tread on the rubber and check pressures. (The pressure changes when the air inside is chilled.)

Roadside Assistance Companies & Insurance Firms

To help with car breakdowns on the road there are many roadside assistance companies. Here are some of the best: 

RankRoadside Assistance ServicesPrice
1AAA$56.00
2Good Sam Roadside Assistance$79.95
3Allstate Motor Club$52.00
4National Motor Club$96.00
5Paragon Motor Club$69.95
6AARP$49.00
7BP MotorClub$95.88
8Better World Club$58.95
9GM Motor Club$94.00
10AutoVantage$179.88

And here is the price of roadside assistance offered through insurance companies:

Insurance CompanyCostPhone Number
State Farm Emergency Road Service$4.56 / year877-627-5757
GEICO Emergency Road Service Coverage*$15.60 / year800-424-3426
Progressive Roadside Assistance$16 / year800-776-2778
Farmers Towing and Road Service*$23 / year800-255-7828
USAA Roadside Assistance$24 / year800-531-8555
Allstate Towing and Labor Cost$125 per Occurence800-255-7828

Bonus tips

  • Ever had your door freeze shut? I have. Had to hit it real hard with my shoulder to loosen it up, this isn’t good for the car or me. Better to put a thin coat of petroleum jelly on the rubber seals round the door and frame – this should prevent freeze up

  • Think it’s going to freeze (again) tonight? WD40 in the lock will help your key slip in easy.

  • Not sure you know about things like stopping distances and (lack of) traction and control? Get a quick review online – courses start at about $25 and might just save your life or car.

  • If you’re at risk of being stranded for some time, make sure you have supplies of any regular medications with you.

  • Sunglasses aren’t just for summer. They’ll help deal with winter glare and reflections from the snow too.

  • Lost traction on your drive wheels? Grit/gravel can help. So can dumping scraps of old carpet under the wheel to gain traction.

  • Tony Howarth
    Tony has been teaching First Aid for a couple of decades now, writes a blog about it, provides on-line safety training at Sea2Sky Services and generally tries to do whatever it takes to keep your and your family, friends, and co-workers safe.

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