You Auto Know: Winter Car Prep



Weather you like it or not, winter is coming. Driving in winter conditions is the bane of many peoples’ existence, but odds are that you are going to have to go out in the cold and snow no matter how much you want to avoid it. When you do finally brave the outdoors, you probably prepare with a jacket, boots, gloves and a hat – but it’s just as important to take some time to prepare your car for the long winter ahead. These tips will not only make the winter more tolerable, but ensure your car is tip-top shape through the frigid months.

  1. Tires – Checking your tire tread is very important—quite possibly the biggest safety item in winter. Your tires need tread to accelerate, turn, and brake—especially in inclement conditions. Checking tire pressure is also key to traction and wear. As the temperature drops, you will lose pressure in your tires. The rule of thumb is for every 10° Fahrenheit change in air temperature, tire pressure will change about 2%.

  2. Battery and Charging System – Cold weather is very hard on batteries, drastically decreasing their ability to hold a charge. When the temperature drops your battery is the number one reason your car could be towed this winter.

  3. Cooling System  - Flushing your cooling system will not only make sure you have the correct mix of coolant and water, it will also prolong the life of your heating system. Generally, you should flush your cooling system every 2 years or whenever your manufacturer recommends.

  4. Wipers – Having good vision is important when the roads get messy or it is snowing. Making sure you have new or winter-specific blades in addition to wiper fluid that can handle below-freezing temperatures is essential for safe winter driving.

  5. Lights – Making sure your headlights, turn signals and brake lights work is very critical to being visible in bad weather.

  6. Tune up – Cold weather magnifies existing issues, and the last thing you want to do is break down in the winter.

  7. Change Oil – Changing your oil is an important part of maintenance and your car may recommend a different oil weight for colder weather. Check your owner’s manual or consult your dealership/repair shop.

  8. Heating System Check – Making sure your heat works before you need it gives you time to repair any issues. In addition to the heat itself, checking to make sure your defrost works will ensure your windshield stays clear all winter long.

  9. Brakes – A brake check is often overlooked when it comes to winter prep, but more than the brakes themselves is the fluid. Brake fluid attracts water over time and can freeze in low temperatures, causing braking performance to suffer.

  10. Fuel- Winter is not the time to push your fuel tank to E. If you start getting low on fuel (below a quarter tank), make sure you fill up. If something were to happen and you become stranded or get stuck in traffic you will want your car to be running so you can stay warm.