10 Tips for Winterizing Your Car
Winter is challenging on your vehicle. In cold temperatures the engine struggles. Snow and ice cause tires to slip, road-salt residue causes rust, and gravel causes the paint to pit. But, there are some simple steps you can do to keep your ride in top condition and your passengers safe. Follow these 10 tips to winterize your car so that you can count on it to work properly.
- Carry an Emergency Kit – Assemble an emergency kit just in case you slide off the road or get stuck in a snow bank. Make sure you have a spare tire and store the following in your trunk:
- Blankets, warm clothes, hat, gloves and boots
- A bag of salt or kitty litter for traction
- A snow brush, ice scraper and shovel
- Engine oil
- Windshield washer fluid with de-icer
- Food (such as protein bars) and water
- Engine coolant
- Jumper cables and/or a portable jumper cable which doesn’t require another vehicle
- Glycerin or de-icer
2. Prevent Frozen Locks – If you put your key into a frozen lock, it could break if you try to force the door open. Warm water will cure this, but if it’s not available use glycerin or de-icer. Windshield wiper fluid with de-icer can be poured on the lock to fix this.
3. Treat the Windshield – Keep your windshield clean so you have good visibility. Replace wiper blades if they are dried out or split and make sure the windshield wiper fluid reservoir is filled. Be sure to use wiper fluid with de-icer.
4. Switch to Snow Tires – If you have the extra cash, consider purchasing a set of winter tires. They are designed with deep tread depth for maximum traction. For extreme conditions, buy snow tires with studs. These will help tremendously but fuel efficiency and handling may suffer.
5. Test Tire Pressure – Properly inflated tires provide the best possible contact with the road. Cooler temperatures can make air pressure in the tires drop so be sure to check them regularly.
6. Check Your Engine Coolant –The coolant is responsible for protecting the engine against corrosion. Every vehicle requires a specific ratio of coolant to water. (Consult your owner’s manual.) Most vehicles require a ratio of 60% coolant to 40% water for winter. Make sure the reservoir is filled to the proper level.
7. Keep the Battery in Good Condition – Cold weather can reduce battery power by as much as 50 percent. Also the thick oil in a cold engine can make it harder to turn over. On conventional batteries, remove the plastic caps and check the fluid level. If it is low, add water. (Check the owner’s manual for specific details.) Also, have the battery tested at an automotive repair shop if it is older than 3 years.
8. Use the Appropriate Engine Oil – Outside temperatures influence the internal temperature of the engine. Therefore, it is important that the correct oil be used for the conditions. If you live where the temperatures go below freezing, check the manual of your vehicle to see what is the lowest viscosity level or thinnest oil your engine requires. The lower the viscosity level is the less your engine needs to perform for it to start.
9. Warm Up the Engine – Be kind to your engine. Although new cars start up quickly and can easily be put into gear, it is better for it if you warm it up for at least 10 minutes, especially during extremely cold weather. This gives the oil a chance to heat up which enables the car to run more smoothly.
10. Maintain the Heater and Defroster – Prior to venturing out in blizzard conditions, make sure the heater and defroster are working properly. Also, check the air conditioner. Since it pulls moisture out of the car, it will help to quickly un-fog the windshield. It can be run at higher temperatures so you don’t have trade off visibility for freezing your bones.
Don’t let the frigid weather keep you stuck inside. Venture out and enjoy life, but be sure to winterize your car first so that you and your loved ones return safely.