Winter weather can really take a toll on even the most well-maintained vehicles, especially if they aren’t properly prepared for the harsh temperatures. From treacherous driving conditions to wear and tear caused by the elements, there are many risks to consider. Learning how to winterize your car properly can not only save money, it’s also an important safety consideration. Fortunately, following these seven simple steps for how to prepare car for winter can help ensure your vehicle is ready when the flakes start flying and temperatures begin to fall.
1. Check Your Tires
Just as you wouldn’t try to walk through the snow without proper footwear, you also shouldn’t be driving without proper, well-maintained tires. If you live in an area that is prone to especially harsh winters, consider getting a dedicated set of snow tires. Snow tires are made with specialized rubber which remains more flexible in extreme cold, allowing the tires to maintain improved traction on cold, snowy and icy road surfaces. Many snow tires also feature deeper tread depths and various tread patterns that improve performance in inclement weather. Regardless of the tires you choose, you should also check your tire pressures regularly to ensure they’re properly inflated. Cold weather can cause a drop in air pressure, potentially leaving your tires under-inflated which may cause a dangerous decrease in performance.
2. Inspect Your Belts and Hoses
One of the most commonly overlooked ways to winterize your car is to closely inspect all belts and hoses. Cold weather can cause the rubber and plastic materials to harden and become brittle, weakening them and even causing cracking or complete failures. It may also cause hoses to begin separating from their connection points. While it may sound intimidating for anyone who isn’t mechanically inclined, this step is actually an easy process. Simply pop the hood and carefully inspect every belt and hose you can find, paying particular attention to obvious signs of wear such as cracks, chips and dry rot. Any worn parts should be replaced promptly.
3. Learn How to Keep Your Car Doors From Freezing
When it’s snowing and blowing outside, there are few things more frustrating than not being able to get into your car. Unfortunately, it’s a common occurrence in the winter. Even a small amount of water penetrating into a lock can freeze it tight, and it can even damage the lock or break your key if you try to force it open. A glycerin lock de-icing product or even some warm water can free up the lock, but it’s much easier to prevent it from occurring in the first place. Simply treat your locks with a small amount of silicone spray or lock lubricant to keep them working properly. As far as how to keep your car doors from freezing, it’s also a good idea to treat the seals around your doors and trunk with a silicone-based rubber lubricant. This not only protects the seals from damage, but also prevents them from freezing and causing the door or trunk to stick.
4. Refresh Your Antifreeze
Most people know that antifreeze is an integral part of how to winterize your car, but few recognize that it can break down and become less effective over time. If your antifreeze hasn’t been changed in a while, it’s a good idea to do a complete flush and fill to prepare for winter. This ensures the antifreeze works as effectively as possible, protecting your engine even in extreme cold. It’s also a good idea to have your cooling system pressure tested, which could help catch a minor leak before it becomes a major headache.
5. Take Care of Your Battery
Your car won’t do you any good if it doesn’t start when you need it to, which means it’s extremely important to take care of your battery in the winter. Take time to inspect it closely, cleaning away any dirt or corrosion from the posts, connections and battery tray. Most batteries also have one or more caps used to check and fill the fluid level. If your battery’s fluid level is low, fill it with distilled water until the level is just below the bottom of the cap. Finally, if your battery is more than four years old, it may be wise to replace it before it loses its effectiveness entirely.
6. Keep Your Gas Tank Filled
Another frequently overlooked aspect of how to prepare car for winter is keeping your tank filled with gas. Allowing a vehicle to sit while it’s less than half full leaves a lot of empty space in the tank, which may allow condensation to form as the temperature fluctuates. This water will eventually find its way into your car’s fuel lines, where it could potentially freeze if the temperature gets too low. This can cause serious problems and lead to costly repairs, not to mention preventing your car from starting and running properly. Add STA-BIL® Fuel Stabilizer to keep your gas fresh for up to 24 months.
7. Build an Emergency Kit
While it may not protect your car from the elements or stop your battery from giving out prematurely, building an emergency kit is one of the most important steps to winterizing your car. The unfortunate fact is that no amount of maintenance can prevent an accident or mechanical failure from happening, and being prepared can be the difference between life and death. Though your exact needs may vary, here’s a list of some basic items to consider keeping in your car:
• First aid kit
• Flashlight and batteries
• Extra clothing and blankets
• Nonperishable snacks
• Jumper cables
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