The cold, salt, and slippery roads of winter pose serious challenges for you and your car. But help is here with our top 10 tips to winterize your car.
Winter can be a challenging season. The dwindling sunlight, the freezing temperatures, the snow, ice, and bitter winds can all test our patience and preparedness. Winter can also be challenging for our cars. That’s why properly winterizing your car is so important. Ensuring your vehicle is ready to take on all winter has in store doesn’t have to be a hassle though. Whether you’re rolling in a Jeep Gladiator ready to bust through some snow drifts or daunted at the prospect of driving in 2-inches of snow in your Honda Accord, we’ve got you covered with our top 10 tips to winterize your car.
Between the harsh effects of temperature swings and the fact that a 10° decrease in temperature lowers a tire’s pressure by 1 psi, winter can be hard on your tires. Regularly checking tire pressure can ensure yours don’t run flat in the middle of a wintry roadway.
If you’re reading this list, it’s likely you live somewhere that snows over the winter months. In that case, it makes sense to consider investing in a set of winter tires. For as helpful as four-wheel or all-wheel drive might be, a good set of winter tires will make an even bigger difference when it comes to handling and stopping on snowy roads. You know all those cars you see dinged up in fender benders on snowy days? They didn’t have winter tires.
In a snowstorm, few pieces of safety equipment become as vital as a good set of wiper blades to keep you on the road and out of the ditch. Rubber wiper blades tend to crack and warp with time. We recommend replacing them no less than once a year and as frequently as every six months, depending on the level of use.
Another thing that can help maintain visibility is fresh wiper fluid that includes a de-icing agent. A quick squirt can help break up ice or prevent ice from forming as you drive. It’s also a good idea to keep your gas tank topped off too. Not only will this ward off frozen condensation in the fuel lines, it also ensures that, were you to get stuck or stranded, you’ll have enough gas to keep you warm. (Note that it’s recommended that if you’re stuck, to only run your engine enough to heat the cabin and then shut the engine off to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.)
Winter is often the dirtiest season for your car. The dirty snow and mud are bad enough, but road salt is certainly the worst and a real threat to the longevity of your ride. Washing your car regularly over the winter months is a necessity to ward off corrosion. Waxing can literally add another layer of protection.
Keeping up on your oil changes is always important, but especially so over winter. Lower temperatures increase the viscosity of your engine’s oil, making it less effective at protecting your engine. Consult your owner’s manual so see whether it recommends switching to a thinner oil for the cold months. And remember, let your vehicle warm up and allow the oil to do its job. Never strain a cold engine.
Another automotive bane of winter is dead batteries. To prevent this, start by checking the charge on your battery. You can either find a load tester at your local auto parts store or have your mechanic test it for you. If it’s low, it’s probably time to replace your battery (if it’s five or more years old, it maybe time anyway). If the charge is still good and the battery isn’t too old, then all you need to do is give it a quick cleaning. Use a wire brush and dry paper towels to scour and clean off any corrosion you find on the terminals.
Make sure to do a cursory DIY maintenance check before winter sets in. Check belts and hoses for cracks. Make sure your front and rear defrosters are working properly. Check, and probably replace, your cabin air filter. Double check that your headlights, taillights, and signals are all working and replace any dead bulbs you can.
It’s also a good idea to get a general service check to make sure other important systems are in good working order. Have your mechanic check your brakes, 4WD/AWD system, your heater core, and top-off or replace your antifreeze.
Preparing for the worst and hoping for the best is always good advice, but never more so than when it comes to winter driving. Having a properly stocked winter survival kit can make all the difference when the weather turns nasty and the snow starts piling up. We recommend the following items: