Winter weather can take its toll on your vehicle, especially if you have an older model. With rock salt, ice, hail, and freezing temperatures, it’s important to take the necessary steps to prevent winter damage, maintain your vehicle, and be prepared in the case of an emergency.
10 Ways to Winterize Your Vehicle
People often worry about their car’s engine during the winter months, but forget that their battery will also be struggling to perform. In colder temperatures, the power of your battery is greatly reduced—sometimes by as much as 50%!
Before the dreariest days of winter hit, make sure your battery can withstand the cold:
- Get your battery load-tested by a mechanic. This checks your battery’s ability to hold a charge. As a general rule, if your battery is over 5 years old, consider replacing it before any extensive winter road trip.
- If your battery is 3 years old or older, have your battery checked annually and replace it if it’s low.
- Inspect your battery to make sure all cables, terminals, and connections are clean and free of damage and corrosion.
2. Tire Pressure
Did you know that for every 10°-drop in temperature, you lose 1 pound of pressure?
As the weather gets colder, the likelihood that your tires will lose pressure or become worn and slip on slick roads increases. You don’t want to be stuck on the side with a flat tire in the middle of winter. Before you head out in the cold, check your tire pressure.
How to Check Tire Pressure:
Although a lot of people think that the recommended tire pressure can be found on the tires. This is actually the wrong place to look. The pressure amount on the tire is normally the maximum allowed pressure. You should almost always have less pressure than what’s listed on the tire.
Check your owner’s manual or the inside of one of the door posts, most often in the driver side door. Once you know the correct tire pressure, pick up a tire gauge if you don’t already have one handy in the glove box. The pencil-style tire gauges are notoriously unreliable so we recommend an analog or digital type.
After you fill up all of your tires to the recommended pressure, put air in your spare tire as well and double-check that you have all the necessary equipment to do a quick and safe tire change. Another option to consider is snow tires.
These are essential for certain areas of the United States that experience a lot of snow. Consider switching out your regular tires with snow tires for better traction and flexibility. Specialized seasonal tires offer you the protection you need when cruising through the snow.
Source: Consumer Reports
3. Wiper Blades
There is nothing scarier than not being able to see the road when you are driving! The weather is much more volatile in the colder months. Drivers face a variety of weather hazards — from sleet and snow, to rain and ice. Without efficient and high-functioning wiper blades, driving becomes even more dangerous.
It is recommended that wiper blades be changed every other year. Consider getting winter-specific wiper blades to help you see through the coming snow storms. If you have a hunch your current blades won’t hold up, have them replaced before winter arrives.
4. Wiper Fluid
In the winter, you’ll need to switch to freeze-resistant wiper fluid. Again, keeping your vision clear, even in the worst weather, is a safety measure that shouldn’t be overlooked.
Keep extra wiper fluid in the car.
5. Motor Oil
If you live in an area where the temperature will dip below freezing, it is recommended to replace your oil with a thinner, lower viscosity. This is because cold weather causes oil to thicken. Your owner’s manual is the best place to check for compatible oil solutions. Winter or not, be sure to change your oil every 3,000–5,000 miles, or approximately every three-to-five months.
Fluids can freeze in your radiator without the correct antifreeze and water mixture. It is suggested that there be a 50/50 balance. Adjustments need to be made depending on how cold your area gets.
If you will be expecting weather below 32 degrees, then 70/30 would be more appropriate. Antifreeze protects your engine and fights corrosion. Most likely this important step will be simple to check off your list. You can purchase pre-mixed solutions at your local gas station.
If you’re unsure of the composition of your radiator’s fluid, purchase an anti-freeze tester at your local car shop or hardware store.
7. System Checks
Inspect your headlights, taillights, turn signals, rear-window defrosters, heating system, seat belts, and electronics. If there are any burnt out bulbs or broken parts, get it fixed before you get in an accident. You may want to consider replacing bulbs if they are dim.
You will also want to inspect your belts and hoses for wear and tear. Cold weather can cause on of your belts to snap, leaving you stranded on the road. If you notice any signs of damage, have them replaced.
8. Four-Wheel & All-Wheel Drive
Reacquaint yourself with your Four-Wheel Drive or All-Wheel Drive systems. If you haven’t busted out the 4WD or AWD in awhile, winter is the time to put it to use. SUVs are much better equipped to handle severe weather with these systems in place. Both 4WD and AWD are used to improve traction and combat slippery conditions. They aren’t so popular to use in the summer, so you could find yourself rusty on how it works.
Your owner’s manual will have information on the environments meant for 4WD to be activated. In terms of AWD, this will be automatically engaged if your car finds itself losing traction. It then goes to work, supplying power to and stabilizing the tires that need assistance.
Consider taking a winter driving course to get familiar with poor weather conditions, especially if you are a new driver. Winter driving techniques are sometimes counter-intuitive and require practice. Learn now so you can save yourself later.
9. Tune Up Your Vehicle
Routine vehicle maintenance is important year-round, but especially before the winter months. Weather has a huge impact on the functionality of your vehicle, and servicing your vehicle becomes more pertinent during this colder time of the year. Your mechanic should take a look at your vehicle, performing a sort of all around physical. All above points (battery, fluids, tires, wipers) should be checked, as well as belts, hoses, and spark plugs. Belt and hoses need to be examined for any noticeable wear and tear.
Life is unpredictable. That’s why packing an emergency safety kit that stays in your car is the perfect way to be prepared for anything. Think of your winter road trips in the same way you would a camping trip, and prepare accordingly. There are many things that could go wrong. Things usually don’t, but you’ll feel protected knowing you can tackle most any bump in the road and trek through the icy trails.
Vehicle Emergency Items:
- Jumper Cables
- Tool Kit
- Tire Chains
- Tire Gauge
- Tire-Changing Essentials – jack, lug wrench, spare tire
- Blanket, Leather Driving Gloves, Snow Cap or Beanie
- Cleaning Towel & Paper Towels
- Snack Foods & Water Bottles
- First Aid Kit
- Extra Coolant
- Deicing fluid (glycerine)
We recommend keeping your gas tank close to full so that you can use the car engine for warmth if you are waiting for help on the side of the road.
Watch this video for more tips on How to Winterize Your Car:
Did we miss anything? Share your car winterization tips with us.
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