A life of adventures and off-road-trips can take a heavy toll on your SUV. Scratched door sills, chipped paint from the road debris, upholstering stained with mud or worse… the list continues. However, these and many other problems with your 4×4 that come as a result of driving on rugged terrain in winter can be avoided with these simple tips.
1. Check Your Tire Pressure
If your steering feels a bit sluggish, or your SUV is favoring one side of the road, one of the tires probably has low pressure. While low tire pressure makes driving and maneuvering in any situation, in winter it has more negative effects on your safety, tire lifespan, and fuel economy. Keep a tire gauge in your car to check the pressure from time to time. If you can’t detect a leak, remember that drastic temperature swings can also reduce the pressure.
2. Keep the Battery in Good Shape
When the temperature plummets, your battery is struggling harder to perform, as low temperatures reduce its cranking power. If you’re using a conventional battery remove the plastic caps and check the fluid level. If it’s low, add distilled water. For maintenance-free batteries, make sure that the window on the battery top indicates a fully charged status. A tired battery maybe only needs recharging, however, if it’s completely worn out, a new one is your only solution.
3. Check the Oil
In low temperatures, motor oil thickens, making it harder for the engine to run. Check with your owner’s manual, but in general, you should use multi-viscosity oil with “W” in its index, which is a sign that it’s suitable for winter use. Modern engines typically use 5W-20, 5W-30, and 10W-30 formulas which provide great flow at low temperatures and can be used all year round.
4. Clean the Headlights
Clear plastic shells of your SUV’s headlights oxidize and become cloudy over time, resulting in a foggy headlight beam. While you can always buy products specialized for headlight restoration, you can also use toothpaste as a cost-effective alternative. Spread some whitening toothpaste on a cloth and use it to scrub the plastic headlight covers. This is especially important in winter when the road visibility is often obstructed by fog, haze, or snow.
5. Stick to a Maintenance Schedule
SUVs can take a lot of beating, especially thoroughbred all-terrain vehicles, but that doesn’t mean they are indestructible. Routine maintenance is important at any time of year, but if you plan on driving up steep terrain in the mud and snow, through sand and streams, you should make sure everything on your SUV is working fine. If you’re mechanically savvy and know a thing or two about car maintenance, look for a reliable online supplier of 4×4 parts and see what replacements and upgrades you can do yourself.
6. Refuel More Often
When it comes to creating extra traction when driving in mud and snow, the weight of your SUV is a good thing. However, every little bit helps, and with a full petrol tank, your vehicle is even heavier. If your SUV has a four-wheel drive, you know only too well that it needs more fuel, which is another reason you should top off the tank more often. With an extra fuel reserve, you’ll be always prepared for four-wheel driving. Keeping the tank full has an additional benefit – it helps prevent water condensation which can mix water into the fuel.
7. Keep the Interior Free of Mud
While your SUV can take you to places that regular city cars can only dream about, keeping its interior clean is far from being fun. The whole point is to leave nature’s messy side on the outside. Get a large plastic tub and keep it in the back of your SUV. When your adventure is done for the day, have everyone remove their muddy boots and dirty jackets and place them in the tub. This will significantly reduce the amount of mess you bring inside.
8. Wash It in Winter, Too
Although very few owners wash their SUVs in winter, the rest are making a big mistake. Rust and corrosion strike hardest when temperatures are low, so making the SUV dry and warm whenever possible reduces the possibility of corrosion setting in. While for many people washing in winter makes no sense as mud and snow will make it look bad anyway, both mud and snow contain sand and other particles that can make even more damage in the long run unless you wash them away at least once a week.
No matter if your winter is frosty and snowy or just muddy and chilly, make sure you run over these SUV winter care tips before you head onto your next off-road adventure.