Snow, ice, or slush, whatever type of winter weather your area sees, it spells out bad news for the unprepared Mustang enthusiast. Driving a rear-wheel drive car through the snow is like hanging on to Clark Griswald’s Crisco-greased sled and is about as dangerous.
There are a few ways to prepare for the winter season, and whether you’re planning on barning your Mustang till warmer months or you’re planning on driving your ‘stang like a one pony open sleigh, there are steps you can take to make sure that both you and your car are safe.
Pre-Winter Mustang Maintenance
As soon as you see that last leaf fall, it's time to buckle down and go through a thorough maintenance check. Whether you’re planning on storing your Mustang or driving it, you need your car to be in peak condition with no hidden issues waiting for an importune moment to strike.
Wash Down and Wax Up
Look. You can wash your car in the winter, but it’s a lot less pleasant. Go ahead and give your vehicle one last good wash and wax. The wax will help to protect your car from the perils of salt, a corrosive material that can rust out cars but melts ice pretty well. Wax will protect your paint, but you’ll also want to protect your undercarriage. There are numerous sprays and protectants available to help pretreat the underside of your car.
If you’re storing your Mustang, it’s still important to wash down your car so that it’s not sitting under a layer of dirt all winter. Left alone over time, dirt can stain and embed itself in paint.
Winter Brake Check
So, you spent your summer break doing burnies. Good on you! But the last thing you need on a slick morning is to suddenly realize that you really should have checked out those brake pads. And while you’re checking on the pads, it’s a good time to give the brake rotors a once over as well. This goes for people storing through the winter as well. Let’s be honest, as soon as you get your Mustang out of the barn and get the cover off you’re going to go do some more donuts and you’re going to forget that you didn’t change out your brake pads.
Cold weather is tough on your battery, and if it’s just barely holding on, that first frost will for sure kill it. If you’re storing your Mustang, you’ll want to get a battery tender. This will make sure that your battery is constantly charged. Or you can unplug your battery and bring it inside with you.
Cooling System Check
Your coolant reservoir needs to be checked as well. If there’s too much water to coolant, it may freeze in the upcoming months. Whether you’re storing it or driving it when water freezes it expands and that’s something you shouldn’t let it do inside your engine.
Nothing is worse than driving in a snowstorm and hearing the ear-piercing screech of a windshield wiper on its last legs as it frantically tries to actually get your windshield clear and utterly fails. Go ahead and invest in a good set of wiper blades. Also, check on your windshield wiper fluid and make sure that it’s not only full but that it’s full of a fluid de-icer that is good to the low temperatures it’s about to experience.
It’s about to get dark a whole lot sooner. Time to make sure your headlights are as bright as you need them to be. Also, check your taillights. They’re important to your safety as well, at least if you don’t enjoy getting rear-ended.
In this video, CJ's own Bill goes into great detail with some tips & tricks to keep your Mustang in pristine condition whether it sits in a heated garage or is driven daily throughout the cold winter months.
Your Mustang is prepped under the hood, it’s clean, its fluids have been topped off, and it’s time to say goodbye for the winter. If you’re storing your Mustang, you’re almost finished with your preparations.
Fill your gas tank all the way up. Yes, you won’t be driving it, but you don’t want space for condensation to form in the fuel line.
Winter Mustang Storage
If you have storage space available, whether that’s a garage or a barn, make sure it’s as dry as possible. Concrete’s good, but you still may want to consider putting down a plastic barrier or, even better, jacking your car up off of the floor.
Temperature fluctuations equal moisture fluctuations. Unless you want your Mustang to smell like a gym sock when you open it up next spring, you’re going to need some moisture absorbers. There are a lot of high-end, really nice ones on the market. Or you could just buy a few boxes of baking soda. Baking soda is a great moisture absorber, will keep your car smelling fresh without giving it a chemical smell, and is very inexpensive.
Finally, let your Mustang know that you’ll see it again soon and cover it up with a good car cover. There are different car covers fitted for Mustangs available for indoor or outdoor use, so pick one appropriately. Even though you’ve done everything right, make sure to check on your Mustang at regular intervals throughout the winter. A tiny leak can be a big problem after three months.
Winter Mustang Driving
Your friends and family will probably ask: Will it go in the snow? The answer depends.
Are you a good enough driver to make it go in the snow? Because what it comes down to is preparedness, already an essential aspect of being a good driver, and skills. Ultimately, the weather is responsible for a lot of accidents, and most of that is because people either weren’t prepared or didn’t adjust their driving style to account for the road conditions. Here are some of the adjustments you can make to be a better winter driver.
In this CJ’s video, Bill goes over some tips for driving your Mustang during the winter months, and how to deal with the inevitable weather-related conditions.
Actually Scrape Down Your Car
Very few enjoy the experience of scraping down their car, and when you’ve got a couple feet on top of your car, that’s certainly not improved. It may be tempting to only scrape off as much as you need to see, but don’t do it. The snow on your roof is going to fall off in a big clump and hit someone else’s windshield: More specifically the person directly behind you who you hope isn’t going to rear end you when they’re temporarily blinded. In some states, you would even be considered liable for an accident that occurred because of snow that fell off your roof. In every state, you’d be considered kind of a jerk.
Best Gears for Snow
Newer Mustangs have a “snow mode” that is pre-set with your best gearing options for the snow. For the rest of us, second gear works great. If you drive an automatic Mustang, you should have paddle shifters pretty much expressly for this purpose. You should get comfortable with your paddle shifters in good weather so you know how they work, but that will allow you to shift up or down as needed to get traction.
Stop Sending It
You are most likely to lose traction while you are accelerating. Ease into a new higher speed. We get it. You can do 0-60 in half a second; winter probably isn’t the time to show that off though. Nobody looks cool when they’ve accelerated faster than their car can keep up with.
Leave More Distance
You probably have a good feel for how long it takes your Mustang to come to a complete stop from the time you hit the brake pedal. Now increase it. You’ll need an eight to ten-second following distance, even with good tires. That’s what you’re going to need in order to stay safe. As part of that, you also will need to reduce the speed you know you can handle your car at as well. Sure, on a sunny day in good weather, you can handle eighty miles an hour without blinking, but maybe drop it down a bit when there’s a foot of snow on the ground, yeah?
If you need to pass the vehicle in front of you, take an extra second and think about it first. By shifting lanes, you could be driving into an icier path. Be cautious, use your signals, and take your time while passing.
Not All Roads are Equal
If you’ve been driving along for a while, you might start to think you have a good feel for how icy the road ahead is. Things like shade and how traveled the road is will affect the slickness of it as well. Treat each patch of the road as though it’s unknown territory. Many drivers have convinced themselves the road isn’t that bad only to encounter a patch of black ice.
Be Prepared for Winter Driving
In addition to working on your winter driving skills and knowledge, it’s equally important to prepare yourself and your car for the inevitabilities of driving in the snow or ice. These are just some of the practical steps you can take to make sure you’re prepared.
Time for an Oil Change
Depending on your region, you may want to adjust the viscosity of your preferred oil. The colder it is outside, the thinner you want your oil to be to ensure you’re providing proper lubrication to all of the internal workings of your engine.
If you live in an area that’s going to be in continuous mountains of snow, it might be time to look at getting a set of snow tires. A proper set of tires during the winter months on a rear-wheel-drive car will help out tremendously when it comes to maneuvering through sketchy winter conditions. Snow tires aren’t what they used to be either. Technology has come a long way from loud, noisy and obnoxious snow tires. Be sure to look into this as an option with another set of wheels for an easy swap in the late fall. Regardless, make sure that you’re not trying to drive on a tire that’s bald or a summer tire that isn’t built to hold on to the wet surface of a road.
At the very least, you’re going to want a set of all-season tires.
You should also check the pressure in your tires. As the air gets cooler, it also condenses and takes up less space, which lowers the pressure in your tires. Go ahead and top off the air. Good, responsive tires will help keep you out of a jam.
Put on Some Pounds
I mean, do it however you can, but it’s easier to steer if there’s more weight over the tires that are actually doing the driving, which for you is the rear ones. Go ahead and throw a bag of kitty litter, salt, or sand back there. As a bonus, if you get stuck, you can open up the bag and use some of it for traction.
Keep Your Door Open
WD-40 can be gently rubbed along weather stripping and may help to keep snow and ice from freezing on the surface.
Prepare for the Worst
Keep a fully stocked emergency kit in your Mustang. First aid kit, flashlight, thick blanket, some road flares, a cell phone charger, and a couple granola bars can all come in handy during an emergency.
Winter Driving Infographic
Click on this helpful infographic for more information on how to keep you and your Mustang safe through the long winter months. Being prepared will help you can keep your cool in the cooler weather.
[click the infographic below]