Pumpkin spice everything. Freezing rain. People complaining that people are already getting ready for Halloween/Thanksgiving/Christmas. It can only mean one thing: winter’s on its way.
But how do you make sure your BMW is ready to face everything the winter months have to throw at it? We take a look at five tips that will keep you from being caught out next time a blizzard cuts across the freeway when you’re 50 miles from home.
1. Just Drive Your X3 Instead
Okay, so maybe not everybody’s going to have one car for the summer and another for the winter, but if you do, now’s the moment to make the switch. And if you don’t…well, maybe you were just waiting for an excuse to get a second BMW? Something a little more suited to ploughing through snowbanks taking the kids to school. Carpe diem. Just don’t end up like this guy.
Obviously, calling a car your winter car isn’t going to suddenly make it immune to freezing and sliding everywhere and being a PITA, so this isn’t an invitation to stop reading. Onwards!
2. Check Your Tires
If you happen to live somewhere that seems to spend half the year under a thick layer of ice, you’re probably already used to switching over the snow tires (it may even be mandatory in some areas; make sure you check the local regulations before heading off into unfamiliar territory).
Even if you don’t need to go all-out on snow tires, lots of people like to change for a tire with a deeper tread for the winter months, for improved traction. That way you can switch back for a racier tire when spring comes round, and always have optimal performance.
Whatever you choose to go for, keep a close eye on your BMW’s tire pressure. Without getting bogged down talking about the laws of physics and drawing graphs (and why would we? These guys have already done the heavy lifting for us), your tire pressure is going to go down in the cold, exactly when reduced traction means tire pressure starts to really matter. It’s not a good combination.
Check your tires to find out exactly what pressure you should be aiming for, and make sure it stays there all season.
3. Maintenance, Maintenance, Maintenance
As you’re looking at your tires, it’s probably a good idea to give your car a complete once-over.
For one, you’ll want to make sure you switch to winter wiper fluid, to keep yourself from freezing everything. Your wiper blades may also need to be replaced, because they’re going to be coming in for a lot of punishment over the next few months.
It’s also a good moment for an oil change. That could mean using a different oil altogether (generally speaking, a thinner oil is better suited to winter conditions), or your existing oil might be enough, but a fresh, clean batch is sure to give your engine a better chance of withstanding what winter has in store.
And if you’re going to change your tires, fluids and oil, why not go even further? Check all your seals and linings, check for rust, check for anything that looks like it could end up being a chink in your BMW’s armor and make sure it’s fixed in time for the onset of winter.
4. Fill Up Your Gas Tank
Obviously you’re filling up your tank in all seasons, but it’s particularly important in winter to keep it topped up whenever possible.
Leaving too much space in your tank makes it easier for moisture to gather, which can end up freezing in your fuel lines and causing all sorts of bad stuff that you definitely don’t want.
You can help fight off this impending disaster by also regularly using fuel deicer throughout the winter months. Basically, if there’s any chance of anything freezing (whether it’s fuel, wiper fluid, radiator fluid or just your door locks), you should be taking whatever steps you can to make sure that definitely doesn’t happen.
5. Get a Survival Kit Together
You don’t want to get stranded in the middle of nowhere in sub-zero conditions with no idea what to do next. In the winter, an in-car survival kit is an essential.
That doesn’t mean loading your trunk up with tinned meats and freeze-dried desserts (though of course you’re going to be glad you brought along a little food and a blanket if you end up breaking down far from the nearest tow truck), but you’re going to need the basics to get your BMW moving again if you’re snowed in.
- Ice scraper.
- Snow brush.
- De-icer (for your locks, so make sure you can spray it).
- Salt / grit / tire mats (for increased traction).
Probably better to just ask a Canadian for advice on this one, though…