Six more weeks of winter. Yes, that is what most of us are facing if we, well, believe in the prognosticating powers of a certain groundhog from western Pennsylvania. But whether you do believe or not, let’s face it, your Jeep definitely takes a beating over the course of the winter months. And while you may have done some preventative maintenance on the Jeep last fall, studies have shown the majority of us have put about as much work into our vehicles this winter as Phil the Groundhog does into Meteorology. In fact 70 percent of drivers out there, according to a recent survey by the National Car Care Council, choose to ignore performing any type of winter maintenance on their vehicles. So with the holiday season behind us, and a month or so of that nasty cold still ahead for most of us, checking out your own Jeep’s weather map – if you have not already – certainly is well worth the time spent. “Maintaining your vehicle all year is certainly important,” says Quadratec Customer Service Manager Frank Wosczyna. “But winter maintenance is essential and should not be ignored. Nobody wants to be stuck on the side of the road in freezing weather, or worse, because of something that easily could have been prevented.” So where to start? Well, Wosczyna says, performing basic Jeep maintenance for the winter does not need to be difficult or confusing. In fact, the obvious things make for the best starting point. Like keeping the exterior clean. Now, admittedly, we all love Jeeps covered in dirt because, um, they are Jeeps after all, but stuff like road salt and other chemicals used to keep roads drivable also can harm the finish of your vehicle if not washed away. So don’t be afraid to give your Jeep a nice regular bath. Also, take a look at the vehicle’s fluids. Check your antifreeze from a cold start – not a warm engine – and add more if the reservoir level is at minimum or below. If it has been about two years since you flushed the coolant, or you are unsure, it may make sense to have it flushed and replaced. It just may save your engine from problems due to water freeze. Check (or have someone check) the transfer case and differential fluids. If the transfer case fluid is dirty or you notice a whine or shake when shifting into four-wheel drive, then it makes sense to change. Many Jeep owners end up only using their four-wheel drive during the winter months, so new fluid will keep things operating smoothly. Heading under the hood, a quick visual inspection of belts and hoses will tell you if anything is cracking and needs replacement. While the hood is open, make sure to check that the washer fluid bottle is filled and your battery is still up to the task. Batteries have a finite shelf life (around 3 years) and the chilly weather can really put them to the test - so if the battery is older or the check leaves you wondering, then it probably is best to make a change. At the front of your vehicle, make sure your lights (low beam, high and any auxiliary) are functioning and not dim or dead. If so, change the bulbs. While you may be an excellent winter driver, other drivers around you could have problems if they can’t see you in the overcast or snowy weather. Quadratec branded lights, PIAA, Vision X, KC and Hella all offer the quality you require, Wosczyna says, should you need any replacements. Same thing for the rear taillights and brake light. They are dangerous – not to mention illegal - if out so make sure everything is in working order. Moving on, check your wiper blades and replace if loose or cracking. Besides anything falling from the sky, there will also be road grime, salt, sand and whatever else the local road crew puts down to sweep away on your windshield. PIAA, Trico and Hella all offer replacement blades that will do the job, Wosczyna says. Going around the vehicle brings us to your tires. While changing over to a nice set of snow tires is certainly recommended depending on your climate and driving needs, most all terrain tires on a jeep can do an acceptable job for most people – provided tread depth is adequate. Tires with about 4/32” (around 1/8”) of remaining tread depth should really have you looking at replacements. Mickey Thompson, Goodyear, Pro Comp, and BF Goodrich all provide solid options with a variety of choices to fit your need. Check that tire pressure as well, Wosczyna adds. Depending on tire size, the correct pressure usually runs from 30-35 psi, but either checking the door sticker or the owner’s manual should give you an accurate assessment. “Not only will the proper tire pressure give you better traction this winter, but it will save you money on fuel too,” he says. “Check it about every two weeks as any temperature changes can affect the pressure.” Then we come to the top. And whether you ride with a soft or hard top, both can have issues you may need to address. For hardtops, any cracks or tears in the seals will not only add extra cabin noise, but may also cause leakage into the cabin and will keep your heater on overdrive. Soft tops, by their very nature, require a bit more special care. It is imperative you do not raise or lower your soft top during the winter months, nor try taking out the windows. At temperatures less than 40 degrees Fahrenheit, soft top material can become very rigid so even if you get the top down you most likely will not be able to put it back up, and will end up destroying the fabric trying to stretch it out. Also, the soft top plastic windows become very stiff in the cold and can be very easy to puncture if tapped or brushed. “At freezing temperatures, the vinyl plastic windows are subject to cracking if unzipped or rolled-up,” says Bestop Regional Sales Manager Brad Bricker. “Avoid using ice scrapers or snow brushes on your soft top windows as that may cause severe scratches or breakage.” Snow on the roof can be a problem as well because of the additional weight pushing on the fabric, so definitely try to (carefully) brush it off the roof as much as possible. As far as keeping the fabric clear of all that road grime, Bricker says there are several options. “Remember that your soft top is produced from fabric and extra care is required during the winter months from the harsh weather and chemicals used on the roads,” he says. “We highly recommend our 3-Pack soft top care kit which contains a bottle of soft top fabric cleaner to help remove stains and will restore the luster of the fabric, a bottle of fabric protectant which helps prevent water and chemical stains, and a bottle of window cleaner and protectant which removes surface scratches and the clouding that occurs from pollutants and road grime - which are especially high during the winter months.” Replacement windows are available if the factory ones are damaged. Some aftermarket tops, like the Bestop Supertop, also have replacement windows if needed. However, some tops do require a full replacement if the windows become damaged as zipper patterns vary between manufacturers. When in doubt, Wosczyna says, you can always consult a Quadratec representative to make sure you get what you need. Inside the vehicle, a nice set of floor liners will go a long way toward maintaining the quality of your interior. Solid rubberized liners will protect your carpet against snow, mud, salt, and all that other stuff winter throws at you. Plus, they are easy to take out and wash off. Whether it is a set of high-quality Quadratec liners, Husky, Catchall, WeatherTech or Bestop - all are designed to give you peace of mind, Wosczyna says. Finally, remember to also provide a little maintenance and peace of mind for yourself this winter by tossing together an emergency gear kit. Items like extra blankets, non-perishable food, water, tow straps, cell phone charger, jackets, flashlight, jumper cables, first aid kit and a Quadratec Heavy Duty Utility Shovel are great to have in any situation. So, while Phil the Groundhog says cold winter weather is here to stay for many more weeks, keeping your Jeep in the best possible condition is really not a tough forecast to make. “Just remember that winter can be a beautiful time of year,” Wosczyna says. “And with a bit of preventative maintenance, you can make sure you aren’t the one admiring the season from the side of the road with a broken-down Jeep.”