Preparing your car for winter is essential to ensure safety, reliability, and longevity of the vehicle during the colder months. And as I’m writing this in September, I think this is the best time for each of us car owners to take some steps in making sure our cars are ready for the cold months ahead.
Here are my ideas:
0. The obvious stuff
That thing you were putting off? That hose? That *insert on its last breath car part here*? Do change it. It’s easier when your fingers are not frozen.
1. Tire Check
Winter Tires: If you live in an area with heavy snowfall, consider investing in winter tires. They’re designed to provide better traction in snow and icy conditions.
Tire Pressure: Cold weather can reduce tire pressure. Check it regularly and ensure it’s at the recommended level. To find out an appropriate tire pressure, check the markings on the tire and your vehicle’s manufacturer’s recommendations. (usualy on the driver’s door, but it might vary)
2. Check your battery
Test your battery to ensure it has a good charge and can handle the cold. Replace it if it’s old or shows signs of weakness.
Ensure the battery terminals are clean and tightly connected. You can also apply some grease to them as a good measure of prevention and maintenance.
- Antifreeze: Ensure your coolant is a 50/50 mix of water and antifreeze. This mix prevents the coolant from freezing in cold temperatures. There are small gadgets on amazon and various shops (even some supermarkets) that can test your antifreeze. Make sure it can go at least 4-5 degrees lower than a bad winter.
- Oil Change: Some cars may benefit from a winter-grade oil that remains more fluid in colder temperatures. Consult your owner’s manual. My vehicle does not require this. But, I’ve timed things in such a way that my yealy oil change (I never reach the required mileage on this car) is in late autumn. This way, when the oil needs to work at its hardest, it is quite fresh. I have no way to proove that this helps in any way, but the car still works so… yeah.
- Windshield Washer Fluid: Use a winter blend that won’t freeze and can help in removing ice and snow from the windshield. Unfortunately, a lot of people neglect this if their autumn is not rainy or freezing temperatures come a bit later than expected. Make sure you are prepared!
The fact that you will encounter frozen roads, wet roads, and generally slicker roads is enough. Don’t play and check your brakes. Just in case.
5. Wiper blades
Wiper blades are considered consumable. If they are squeaky or have visible signs of wear, replace them. You need visibility in winter times.
Good wiper blades will be more effective at clearing snow, ice, water, frozen particles and stuff from your windshield.
6. Heating and Defrosting Systems
Ensure that your car’s heater and defroster are working efficiently. You’ll need them to keep the interior warm and the windows clear. It is a good time to just turn on those features for a couple of minutes to make sure everything is ok.
7. Lights and clarity
Now, with shorter days and reduced visibility during winter, make sure all your lights (headlights, tail lights, brake lights, and turn signals) are clean and functioning correctly. But that is not all!
On older cars, your headlings and tail lights might be scratched, foggy or worn out. You can polish them and then protect them (various methods available) to prevent this a little. Besides the aesthetics, a clear headlight will also transmit light better. That means you’ll see better and other people will see you better in foggy or low visibility scenarios. You want this.
8. Have an emergency kit ready in your car
I hate this as it kind of takes a little of my trunk space. But I would not want to be caught off-guard especially since I usually drive a 8-12 years car. That means things can go wrong no matter how well serviced the car is. Sometimes shit happens.
Here’s my emergency kit:
- two blankets
- A big Flashlight with extra batteries
- Jumper cables
- First-aid kit (actually mandatory in my country so this is always present)
- Snow shovel
- a lock de-icer in case doors locks freeze
- Ice scraper and snow brush
- Some protein bars (I buy them in autumn and eat them in spring if I don’t use them. I like them and often eat them as a tasty snack anyway)
- Some bottled water, about 2-4 liters.
- some reflectors
- 5 kg of Sand (for traction if you get stuck)
- some emergency Extra warm clothing (a pair of gloves, two scarves and a warm hat)
In the winter, keep your gas tank at least half full to prevent the fuel lines from freezing.
If I have to take a 100 mile or more trip, or venture into new places, I try to maintain my tank as full as possible. You never know.
10. Exterior care
A good wax coat or ceramic coat can help protect the paint from the harsh winter elements and even salt on the road.
11. Seals and door locks
Clean and lubricate door seals to prevent them from freezing. This will also prolong their life.
12. Consider rubber mats
In the winter rubber mats are just easier to have around. But make sure they are properly secured to the floor to avoid them sliding and obstructing pedals.
13. As soon as the temperatures drop – check belts and hoses
Inspect the belts and hoses in your engine’s compartment.
Cold temperatures can weaken belts and hoses. That’s just the sad truth. Rubber and other compounds can wear faster or misbehave when temperatures drop. So if anything looks sketchy or damaged, have a mechanic look at it or replace them yourself if you have the know how. You do not want a failing belt in the middle of nowhere in freezing weather.
By following these tips and ensuring your car is well-prepared for winter, you can reduce the risk of breakdowns, accidents, and improve your vehicle’s lifespan during the colder months.
Let’s just have a nice drive in the cold, and no suprises. And this article will help you achieve that.