How to Care for Your Car's Engine in Winter

car with snow
Solve your engine problems before winter.

If you live in a cold climate, it can be helpful to know how to care for your car's engine in winter. Even in warmer climates, winter changes in humidity and temperature can mean specific maintenance requirements for your car. Follow these guidelines to get the best performance out of your engine year-round.

Tips for How to Care for Your Car's Engine in Winter

No matter where you live, chances are you experience some weather changes during the winter months. In Northern climates, subzero temperatures and salty roads can wreak havoc with a car's engine. In more moderate climate zones, frequent freezing and thawing can also be hard on your vehicle. These tips will help you take care of your engine so that it will take care of you.

Change the Oil

Dirty oil is bad for your engine at any time of the year, but it's even worse in the winter. Oil reduces friction in your car's engine, and good, clean oil will reduce engine damage. In winter, the colder temperatures make the oil more viscous. If the oil is dirty, it will be even thicker, and thick oil will not flow through the engine properly. Get an oil change before the temperature gets too cold.

You might also consider a different motor oil for winter driving. Your mechanic may have some suggestions that are right for your specific vehicle. In general, 5W30 is recommended for winter engine upkeep.

Check Your Coolant

Your engine has coolant to help keep it from overheating, but this important fluid can become contaminated easily. Have the cooling system checked before winter to make sure the mixture is right.

One important consideration for engine coolant is the level of antifreeze. If there is too much water in your cooling system, the liquid could freeze in cold weather, blocking coolant flow and leading your engine to overheat. Make sure the system contains at least a 50% mixture of antifreeze.

Perform a Tune-Up

It's a good idea to perform an annual vehicle tune-up before winter weather sets in. You can do this yourself or schedule an appointment with your auto mechanic. Either way, make sure the following items are checked and replaced as needed:

  • Spark plugs
  • Hoses and belts
  • Air intake and air filter
  • Fluid levels

Allow Your Engine to Warm Up

If you live in an especially cold climate, it may be wise to warm up your engine before driving it. To do this, you can install a remote car starter or allow your vehicle to idle for about 30 seconds before driving it. After this 30-second warm-up period, drive your car gently to allow the engine components to come up to temperature.

Storing Your Car

If you will be storing your car over the winter, there are a few other things you'll need to do for your engine. The stress of sitting in one place and being subjected to dramatic temperature changes can be hard on your vehicle. The following steps can help:

  • Fill the fuel tank in order to reduce oxidation.
  • Add fuel stabilizer.
  • Consider disconnecting the wiring harness for the fuel pump.
  • Seal off any exhaust pipes or air intakes to prevent infestation.

Avoid Repairs and Breakdowns

Knowing how to care for your car's engine in winter can help avoid expensive repairs and inconvenient cold-weather breakdowns. Take the time to care for your car so you can have some peace of mind this winter.

How to Care for Your Car's Engine in Winter