Thurston Car Talk: Tips for Winter Vehicle Preparation


Submitted by Bron’s Automotive

We’ve delayed writing about winterizing your vehicle as the weather has been so nice this fall. After our recent snowfall, it seems that the time has arrived to share some winter vehicle tips.   These tips should actually be in order all year long, (it can rain here any time after all), but the impending winter is a great time to take stock of your vehicle’s health to ensure safe travels through our winter weather.


First, check your tire tread depth. Look for the wear bars that go across the tire in the grooves. They are slightly raised off the bottom of the groove and when they get near the level of the top of the tread it’s time to replace the tires. When they are level with the top of the tread, the tires are technically illegal to drive on.

Don’t wait this long. Deeper tread allows the tire to grip better in snow and wet conditions and lessens the chance of hydroplaning –  when the tire rides above the water on the pavement like a wake-board does on water. This typically happens at highway speeds but occurs sooner the more the tires are worn. Some of our freeways have worn troughs in the lane where the tires normally run that collect water puddles and these are particularly dangerous with worn tires.


Next, check all your lights. It’s nearly impossible to see when one of your headlights has burned out as we are usually behind the wheel.  When the second light burns out, you are in a world of trouble if on the road in the dark. Occasionally a customer will ask how both headlights could have burned out at the same time, and of course the most likely answer is “they didn’t”.  Pay attention to the side markers as well. These help other drivers see us, especially the folks who start driving before their windshields are fully defrosted.

Windshield Washers

Next test your windshield washers. Make sure your washer reservoir is filled with -20 degree washer fluid, not the less expensive stuff that doesn’t stay liquid down to that low of a temperature. The tendency for us in the Puget Sound region is to think we can get away with the cheap stuff with less freeze protection, but I found out the hard way what a bad notion this was when going over a mountain pass in Montana in a snowstorm. My washers froze up and I ended up with a big smeary mess to look through when visibility was already compromised (a Semi had splashed mud on my windshield and I couldn’t stop to clean it – it was exciting in a bad way).

Check your wiper blades for age and cracking. For what they cost, I usually put on a new pair every fall so I’m ready. Make sure you turn your wipers all the way off when you park at night. If it freezes overnight and they are halfway up the windshield, then when you start the vehicle in the morning, the motor will be trying to move them while they are stuck and this is damaging to wiper motors and wiper linkages. Some people tilt the blades away from the glass at night if they think it will freeze.


Lastly, clean the inside of your windshield regularly in the winter. If the inside of the windshield is clean, it will defrost faster and give better visibility. Of course if you are going to a good automotive shop like Bron’s Automotive, all of these items are looked at every time your vehicle is in the shop with our Free Courtesy Inspection. For those of our customers who are reading this, don’t worry, all of these things are up to snuff on your vehicle. For others who would like a Free Courtesy Inspection, call us at 360-943-5993.

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