Most cars are like most humans: they simply don’t like winter weather. They dread waking up to bitter winds and darkness. They struggle to exercise when the temperature starts to dip. Sometimes (often embarrassingly and sometimes dangerously) they slip in the snow. Although cars will never perform at their optimum level on frosty, freezing days, you can help your vehicle transition from autumn to winter by following some simple winter car care tips.
Winter Car Care Tips
- Keep your battery fully charged at all times. You might also want to have a repair shop load-test your battery and if it’s not doing so hot, consider replacing it now.
- Check the tread of your tires and replace them if needed. Depending on where you live, you might want to purchase winter tires (sometimes known as all-season tires) to ease the stress of driving in rough winter weather.
- Have your brakes checked. In slippery conditions, a healthy braking system will keep your car on course and your nerves in check.
- Be sure that the exhaust system is in good condition to prevent dangerous carbon monoxide leaks.
- Check your tire pressure. The pressure will drop as the temperature drops, so it’s important that you check it regularly. Under-inflated tires don’t perform as well on snow or ice.
- Clean your headlights with car wax so that their performance isn’t impeded by dirt and grime. This isn’t the most important of our winter car care tips, but every little bit helps!
- Be sure your transmission, brake, and power steering fluids are filled to the proper level.
- Check any parts of your car that house antifreeze to be sure that they are leak-free and in good condition. This includes your radiator, heater core, and hoses.
- If your car has been regularly serviced, you probably won’t need to replace the antifreeze, also known as engine coolant. Antifreeze generally lasts about 5 years (or 150,000 miles), but you can check your car’s manual to be sure. If your antifreeze is getting old, take your car into a repair shop to have it “flushed and filled.”
- Check the condition of your wiper blades. Most wiper blades only last about a year. You might also consider buying beam blades if you don’t already have them. They don’t have an external spring (which can freeze in cold winter), so they’re a better choice for cold months. If you like, you can fill the windshield washer reservoir with de-icer windshield washer fluid as well.
- Buy an ice scraper to keep in your car if you don’t already have one. A brush is a good idea as well (to remove snow).
- Prepare a winter survival kit to keep in your car in case of an emergency. Your survival kit might include any or all of the following: blankets, warm clothing, a source of heat (like a can heater), matches, candles, a radio, batteries for the radio, food, a cup (or an empty tin can to melt snow with a candle beneath), toilet paper, a bright flag or cloth, a whistle, nylon rope, and/or something to keep you occupied so that you can stay awake (like a book). With proper winter car care, you hopefully won’t have to deal with any accidents, but it will be nice to know you have this kit, just in case!
Cold weather can be rough on your car, but if you follow these winter car care tips and combine them with safe driving practices, you and your vehicle can stay safe all winter long.