How to Prepare Your Vehicle for Winter

Winter weather can be tough on cars. Icy roads, low visibility, salt, and the cold itself present challenges to drivers and vehicles alike. But by preparing your vehicle for winter, you’ll be able to minimize risk and get through the season with relatively little trouble. Here’s how to get started.

Test the battery

Your mechanic should do this when you go in for routine maintenance, but it’s important enough to talk about it separately. Cold weather is liable to cause some issues for drivers. According to AAA, “a fully charged battery in good condition is required to start an engine in cold weather.” As a side note, hot weather can also be detrimental to a car battery, as it can reduce the lifespan of the battery. People living in states that get hot summers may need to replace their battery as often as every three years, as opposed to five or more.

Protect the interior and wash the exterior

Winter is probably the messiest season. That beautiful blanket of morning snow quickly turns to brown slush, and the salt used to keep road surfaces free of ice can accumulate on your vehicle, leading to potential bodywork damage. For the interior, “You can prevent this weather damage by putting in all-weather, rubber floor mats,” says The Weather Channel. As for the exterior, it’s recommended to clean the car more often than usual. It’s no fun to clean a car in the cold, but fortunately, a car wash will do. Just make sure to get the service that includes cleaning the undercarriage.

Pack a winter emergency kit

With icy roads and struggling batteries, it might be easier than you think to get stranded in the winter. If that happens, the last thing you want is to be left without a winter emergency kit. A regular kit includes jumper cables, drinking water, non-perishable food, a first aid kit, basic tools, warning devices, a phone charger, and flashlight. To make it winter-specific, AAA recommends adding extra warm clothing such as hats, scarves, and gloves, as well as blankets, a snow shovel, ice scraper, and a “bag of abrasive material” like cat litter or sand. It may seem overkill when you don’t need it, but having these items at hand can save your life.

Take your car in for maintenance

The best way to prepare your car for winter is to take it in for maintenance and have a professional technician take a look at all the critical components. In preparation for winter, some of the most important parts of your car include your tires (type, tread, and pressure), coolant levels, wiper blades, brakes, drive belts, and of course, the aforementioned battery. “During extreme cold, coolant (antifreeze) can generate an electrical current, which can actually do damage to your coolant system overtime,” TWC warns. “To avoid having to get that fixed or replaced down the line, best to get it flushed out now and replaced with fresh coolant.”

Consider winter tires

Winter tires are well worth the investment for people who live in areas where temperatures are consistently near or below freezing in the winter. This is because in addition to having grooves specially designed to better bite through the snow and onto the road surface, winter tires are made with a rubber compound that better withstands the cold itself. All-season tires, by comparison, become rigid and thus provide less traction in very cold weather. “If you have to drive in snowy conditions, winter/snow tires out-perform most all-season and all-terrain tires with better stopping and starting ability,” says Consumer Reports. “They are good choices for all cars, whether front, rear, or all-wheel drive.”

It pays to be prepared. Visit your local mechanic and ask them to help get your car prepped for the upcoming winter season.


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