Should I Winterize My Car?

“Winter is Coming”

They say don’t should on yourself and don’t should on others, but we have an exception: Yes, you should winterize your car to make sure it is protected and safe to drive this winter.
Basically, you want to winterize your vehicle to protect it from the freezing temperatures and prepare it to handle the adverse road conditions that inclement weather will present. In addition to preparing your vehicle for icy roads, we also recommend preparing yourself. Check out these winter driving tips from AAA. If you’re still uncomfortable driving in winter, consider practicing in an empty, snow-laden parking lot.

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When Should I Winterize My Car?

Last week! If you live in the Midwest you probably experienced Winter Storm Bruce on Sunday and wish you’d have already winterized your vehicle. If anything, it was a less-than-gentle reminder to get your car the extra pre-snow lovin’ it needs. We’re not meteorologists but if you’re reading this, cold conditions are probably imminent if not already upon you. Winterize ASAP.

How to Winterize Your Car: 8 Steps

You know your vehicle best, so you know its tendencies. Do the doors and windows get frozen shut? Are your tires or battery old? Does your car tend to slide on icy or wet roads? Tip: Think back to which issues caused you any headaches last winter and focus on those first.

We’ve included a pretty comprehensive list of recommended steps to prepare your car for winter. These are merely an addition to regular tuneup and maintenance that should be performed year-round on your vehicle. You can try to DIY or just make sure your mechanic covers them all if you opt to let the shop winterize.

  1. Check Your Battery

    When temperatures drop, your engine requires more power from your battery to get started. Also when temps drop, voltage from your battery decreases. If the battery can’t give your engine the power it needs, your car will not start. Test the battery with a mechanic or hydrometer. Make sure cables are securely connected to terminals that aren’t corroded. Connections should be clean and secure.

  2. Inspect Windshield Wipers and Fluid

    You can’t drive safely through a winter storm if you can’t see through your windshield. Wipers should be replaced every year. Also consider purchasing winter wipers. Make sure that your wipers are in good shape and your wiper fluid is full. Wipers should not be scratching or making streaks, but making full, smooth contact with your windshield. For fluid, we recommend finding a brand that includes the terms de-icer, freeze-resistant or low freezing point.

  3. Fill and/or Replace Coolant

    It’s extremely important for coolant to be maintained throughout winter months so it can do its job – keep your engine cool without freezing up completely. Check your owner’s manual to see what the antifreeze:water ratio should be for your vehicle so it doesn’t freeze. You can also buy coolant tester at an auto parts shop. Flush your coolant if it’s time to do so (every couple of years).

  4. Check and/or Change Oil

    When the temperature drops, your oil can thicken, making it harder to lubricate the engine and allow it to start your vehicle. Change your oil as usual. Then, check the viscosity and consult your owner’s manual and/or mechanic to see if you should change to a thinner oil for the winter season.

  5. Prepare Tires

    Winter road conditions will be the true test for your tires. Low pressure and shallow tread can both cause you a loss of traction and safe driving. Check the tire pressure and tread depth. Although they can be expensive, if you live in a region with severe weather climate, consider snow or all-season tires.

  6. Lubricate Doors and Other Openings

    Moisture can seep into the cracks of your doors, locks, trunk, hood and windows to later freeze and leave you locked out, unable to roll windows down or unable to access your engine or trunk. Lubricate all weather stripping and window tracks with silicone spray and door-lock lubricant.

  7. Flush Your Heater

    If your heater isn’t working well enough or stopped entirely, the heater core may be clogged. If clogged, warm coolant can’t heat the air passing through. Clean out your heater core tubes so it can use its coolant supply to heat air quickly. Unless you’re experienced, you may want to consult a service station or repair shop for this.

  8. Prepare a Roadside Emergency Kit

    You should have some version of a roadside emergency kit in your vehicle year-round with basic supplies like a first aid kit and flashlight. Additions depend on the available space in your vehicle, where you’re traveling and the climate. However, better safe than sorry. We’ve included the ultimate car emergency kit checklist below so you can build your own roadside survival kit. If you’d rather someone do the compiling for you, you can buy a basic premade auto survival kit for less than $20 and a great one for $40.

Again, these are eight ways to winterize your vehicle that should be added to regular service and upkeep. Don’t forget to make sure brakes, lights, exhaust systems, belts and hoses, etc. are all still working properly per usual. Also keep your gas at least half full at all times during winter months.

Ultimate Car Emergency Kit Checklist

What Goes in an Emergency Car Kit?

  • First aid kit
  • Flashlight (include extra batteries or choose a crank operated version)
  • Reflective triangle
  • Air compressor or fix-a-flat
  • Jumper cables
  • Tire pressure gauge
  • Spare tire
  • Car jack
  • Road flares
  • Lug wrench
  • Multipurpose tool
  • Chains (tie and/or tow)
  • Emergency whistle
  • Warm clothes, especially gloves
  • Blanket(s)
  • Bag of kitty litter, salt or sand (in case you get stuck in snow/slush)
  • Ice scraper and brush
  • Small shovel
  • Glycerin (for unfreezing vehicle openings you didn’t lubricate)
  • Coolant
  • Drinking water
  • Non-perishable snacks
  • Phone charger (consider solar)
  • Compass
  • Matches
  • Mini fire extinguisher
  • Poncho(s)
  • Tarp
  • Bungee cords
  • Cable zip ties
  • Rags
  • Duct tape
  • Baby wipes
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