Winter is coming: prepare your vehicle

No matter what side of the wall you live on, there is no disputing that the glory days of autumn will soon enough be replaced by snow and ice. Now that you live in the country of efficiency, you might as well go native and start planning your winter preparations now. in Kaisers-lautern have given us some top tips on getting your car ready for the forthcoming cold spell…

Winter tires

Your tires are the first thing you need to check — it’s the law! German regulations state that you must have winter tires on your car when winter conditions, including ice, black ice, frost, snow and slush are prevalent.

Winter tires are defined as having the markings M + S (mud and snow) on the side of the tire. Some all-season tires carry this marking and are therefore legally valid. The German automobile association ADAC recommends tires bearing the snowflake logo — sometimes also called the “three-mountain” logo — because those tires meet the highest standards for winter driving.

The consequences for not having the correct tires can be severe. High-performance “summer” tires have little or no grip in snow. Not only are you risking the safety of you and your passengers, but other road users too.

The fine for being caught without the correct tires, is currently €40. In case of an accident this jumps to €80. Additionally, insurance companies have the right to refuse part of your claim if you were not using the correct tires.

Because winter conditions can’t really be predicted or pinned down to a definitive date, most Germans use the rule of thumb O-to-O (Oktober to Ostern/Easter) and therefore will be making appointments to change their tires. Order your tires now and make the appointment with your local tire mounting service to have them changed.

Many companies, such as in Kaiserslautern, specialize in best price tires and fittings for Americans, including the use of VAT forms.

A factor that is often overlooked is the importance of maintaining correct pressure in your tires.

The main external factor governing tire pressure is temperature change. For every 10-degree change in temperature, a tire can lose approximately one pound per square inch (PSI). So, while your tires were properly inflated all summer, they now will require additional air to maintain the proper pressure as temperatures begin to fall.

Getting a tune up

Safety should be your first priority: so make sure to get a seasonal tune-up and winterize your car appropriately for the weather conditions. Tuning your car helps to maintain it so that the necessary repairs are done on time and your car is in good condition to avoid any mishaps while you are on road.

If your car battery is more than three years old make sure to test it. The average life of a car battery is less than five years. Checking your battery life will help you avoid the possibility of battery failures in cold winter conditions while you are on the road.

Visibility is one very important thing for safe driving. Choose good quality wiper blades that are designed to resist ice or snow build-up. They are not expensive: if necessary go wild and replace them both.

Make sure that your engine coolant levels are correct and that your fluid is ready for winter. Check or change the bulbs in your lights.

Stocking up your trunk

It is a legal requirement to carry a first aid kit, warning triangle and high visibility vest in your car in Germany — this is applicable all year, not just in winter.

If you live in a hilly or mountainous area, consider keeping snow chains in your vehicle to assist with treacherous road conditions. If you are a skiing family, you will need these to drive to many ski resorts anyway, especially in Austria.

Mucky windows are a curse and severe safety hazard during winter. Consider carrying an extra bottle of windshield fluid in your vehicle.

Make sure you have a good spare tire, wheel wrench and proper jack for your vehicle.

Keep a couple of blankets and a few items of warm clothing in your car. Don’t forget your warm gloves — essential!

By preparing your vehicle for the forthcoming winter now, you are going to be safer and will be in a much better position to enjoy the snowy season in Germany.