Winter Vehicle Maintenance: Winterize Your Car

When the weather turns cold, it’s time to bundle up and take care of yourself. Limiting your exposure to the elements is the best way to ensure that you’ll be healthy and comfortable during the cold winter months, and the same applies to your car. Like you, it needs protection, because cold weather can have an adverse effect on your vehicle’s vital systems.

Keeping your car properly maintained and prepared for the cold weather is important. Taking steps now to care for your car can help prevent breakdowns even long after the ground thaws and the snow melts. That’s because damage done to your car during the winter might not take full effect until months later.

Unless you want to spend some of your winter standing by the side of the road shivering while waiting for a tow truck, it’s important to take a few moments to ensure that your car’s vital systems are maintained and prepared for when the cold takes hold. Taking the time to prepare your car for winter can mean the difference between a smooth ride through the season and a bumpy one. With that in mind, here are some important things to remember about keeping your car’s important systems in good shape throughout the winter.

1. Check the Battery

One of the most common problems drivers face during the winter is that their cars won’t start. This is because cold temperatures can make weak batteries even weaker. Before winter sets in, have your car’s battery tested, and replace it if it’s not pulling its weight.

2. Check Oil and Transmission Fluids

Old, sludgy oil and transmission fluids get even thicker when the temperature drops. That makes it more difficult for your engine to run in the winter, as it prevents the engine’s essential components and the transmission from getting the lubrication they desperately need for proper functionality. Taking your car in for its regularly scheduled oil changes is crucial for ensuring that everything works properly when the mercury drops. If you’re changing the oil yourself, make sure you’re using a multi-viscosity oil as recommended in your car’s owner’s manual. Be sure, too, that its viscosity index includes a “W” to indicate it can be used during the winter.

3. Check the Tires

When the air outside gets colder, the pressure in your car’s tires tends to decrease, creating a potentially hazardous situation. To avoid driving around on tires with dangerously low air pressure, check the tire pressure regularly during the winter. If the tire pressure drops below the recommended level, have the tires refilled as soon as possible. Driving on deflated tires can wear down their treads much faster than normal and lead to dangerous situations, especially on slick winter roads.

4. Check Heating/Antifreeze

Having your car’s heating and ventilation system checked out before the winter begins is always a good idea if you want to ensure that it will keep you warm when you need it the most. You also must ensure that your car has enough antifreeze to prevent your engine from freezing over during the coldest periods of the winter.

5. Inspect Windshield Wipers

Your car’s windshield wipers will be called upon to do a lot of work during the winter, wiping sleet, snow and road salt away and making it easier to see where you’re going. It’s important to remember to replace the wipers every six months to ensure that they’re always working at their best. It’s also good to keep your windshield washer fluid topped off, and carry an extra bottle of it in your trunk just in case. Also, remember that you should never use your windshield wipers to try to clear away ice that forms on your windshield when you’re parked. An ice scraper is the best tool for that particular job.

6. Keep the Gas Tank Full

It’s always a good idea to keep your gas tank more or less full, but especially during the winter. In addition to ensuring that you won’t run out of fuel in the middle of nowhere when it’s below freezing outside, keeping your gas tank full also helps prevent water from collecting in your fuel pump, where it can freeze and cause serious damage.

You wouldn’t think of entering the cold, harsh winter season without knowing that you had everything you needed to stay warm and comfortable. The same applies to your car, so follow these tips for preparing it for the winter and you can avoid having regrets later.