How to Winterize Your Car

Car in Snow

Learning how to winterize your car is a step necessary for anyone who lives in a cold weather climate. Winterizing the vehicle prepares it, and you, for harsh winter weather. In some cases, winterization can save your life.

How to Winterize Your Car Properly

The process of winterizing requires several steps. Even those who live in cold climates each winter season still need to take steps to ensure the vehicle is prepared. Perform these steps in the early fall, prior to any snowfall if possible.

Check Car Mechanics

The first step in the process of winterizing is to focus on the mechanics of the vehicle. The goal is to ensure the vehicle's engine and other systems are ready for the colder winter weather. A tune up or a visit to the auto shop is in store.

Perform the following maintenance activities:

  • First, discuss your oil options with your mechanic. Always follow the manufacturer's recommendations for oil type, but do note that during colder weather, the viscosity of the oil will change. Cold oil is thicker. If the oil gets too thick, the engine may not get the lubrication it needs to perform well. You may need to choose oil with a different viscosity during the winter.
  • Check your vehicle's battery. If the battery is older, replace it. A good guide is to replace the battery every three to four years, or as needed. Ensure all connections are free from corrosion. In cold weather, the battery may struggle to start the vehicle. In a snowstorm, this could be troublesome.
  • Inspect all belts and hoses in the vehicle. A full service inspection of the vehicle is the one surefire way to ensure the shop checks these. Look for any wear on them. The cold weather may cause the hoses and belts to tighten up, and if there is wear on them, this could cause them to snap.
  • Check the antifreeze in the vehicle. The best combination is a 50 to 50 ratio of antifreeze to water in the radiator. This ensures the liquid does not freeze, even if the temperature dips very low. Some manufacturers produce antifreeze products like this, designed specifically for winter use.
  • Be sure all systems in on the vehicle are working properly. This includes windshield wipers, lights, and windows. Take care of any important problems prior to the winter season, such as replacing brakes.

Check Tires

An important step in learning how to winterize your car is inspecting the tires. The tires take most of the brunt of winter road conditions. They slide on the ice and have to trudge through thick blankets of snow.

  • Be sure the tires are in good condition. Replace worn tires.
  • Check the tire pressure. With the right level of inflation, the vehicle will not slide as much on ice.
  • Consider investing in snow tires if you live in an area with hills and significant snowfall.
  • Maintain your tires properly throughout the winter. Check the tread depth regularly. Monitor for any leaks and repair as needed.

Prepare an Emergency Kit

The final step in winterizing the vehicle is preparing it to save your life. As long as the vehicle is functioning properly, you can get from place to place. If, however, you become stranded, your vehicle becomes your home until someone can help you. Prepare an emergency kit that includes at least the following:

  • A warm blanket
  • Ice scrapers (a second one from the one inside the vehicle)
  • Bottled water and some type of nonperishable food
  • A small shovel
  • A flashlight
  • A set of clothing for each person who regularly uses the vehicle
  • A set of replacement windshield wipers
  • Flares
  • Jumper cables
  • A stocked first aid kit
  • A spare tire that has all of the tools to change a tire
  • Basic tools
  • Some type of abrasive material such as sand or gritty salt to put under the tires to increase traction
  • Battery operated radio

Each of these items could be useful in the event of an emergency. Store them in a watertight bag in the trunk of your vehicle or in the back seat.

Preparation Is Critical

These steps will help protect you from whatever winter causes. Having a vehicle that is prepared for this harsh winter weather is critical to maintaining safe driving.

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