How to Prepare your Car for Winter

How to Prepare your Car for Winter

With temperatures starting to drop in most parts of the country people are getting ready for Winter.  What most people don’t think about before snow hits the ground or it gets cold is how to maintain your car properly.

How to Prepare your Car for Winter1. Clean and Wash your Car

This is something that is a good idea to do before it gets cold and there is snow on the ground.  Get all that dirt, road grime and bird poop off your car when it’s warm and you actually feel like doing it.  Alright, well maybe you don’t, but during the winter, cars tend to attract more dirt and you not likely going to clean it when it’s cold outside.  I’d recommend cleaning and vacuuming the interior of the car as well.  If you don’t have rubber floormats, I would consider buying a set as it will help keep your car’s interior cleaner during the winter.  (If you have a membership these Costco Floormats are a great value.)

2. Check your Battery

It is essential to get your battery checked at your local auto parts store, mechanic, or you can Do-it-Yourself.  Cold temperatures make it hard for the acid and chemicals inside your battery to operate normally, meaning it has reduced power to get your car started.

Does your battery have a lot of white corrosion on the terminals?  Even if your battery is fairly new you can still service it.  Undo the negative cable first, then the positive cable so you don’t shock yourself.  A quick way to get all the white corrosion off is to pour warm water on top of the battery, which washes away all that white sulfate deposit.  (Pros do this!)  You can then battery terminal cleaner and clean the terminals and cables, ensuring you battery has a strong connection.

A lot of white corrosion could mean one of the cells is starting to go or is dead though.  Most auto parts stores do free battery checks, and they can test your whole electrical system if you ask. (If you need a new battery you will likely buy it there.)  If you have had trouble starting your car in the past due to your battery going dead or it has given you problems just get a new battery.  If it is more than 2-4 years old and you live in a really cold climate you should definitely consider just replacing it.

Checkout my awesome video on How to Replace a Car Battery along with some tips.  If you haven’t done it before it is a simple job with basic tools.  The hardest part about the replacing an auto battery is having to move it around.

3. How do those Lights Look?

Having a headlight or taillight bulb out is something most people easily miss.  We, understand!  You have other things on your mind.  During the Winter days are much shorter though, so it’s a good idea to make sure all your lights are working.

Turn on your car lights and walk around to make sure all are in working order.  Remember to check your blinkers as well.  If any are out, replace them.  It will save you the hassle later of possibly getting a ticket.

What about your headlights?  Can you even see out of them?  If you have hazy or yellowed headlights I’d recommend buying a headlight restoration kit to fix it.  It is not too much trouble and the kits are $15-$20.  I’ve tested the 3M Headlight Restoration and the Slyvania Headlight Restoration Kit.   Either one should work pretty well but I like the 3M one since it did a better job.

4. Check your Fluids

You want to make sure you have a 50:50 mixture of anti-freeze and water inside your radiator. If there is not enough anti-freeze in the mix, it could potentially freeze in the cold weather.  How would you know what the correct mixture is though?  There are test strips that will show the pH level in your coolant.  I rarely see many shops using them, but you can buy them at auto parts stores.  You might want to consider doing a coolant flush if you have never done it, or if it has been 4+ years since you have gotten that radiator flusehd.  Don’t forgot to also check your radiator hoses.  If they are bulging hard, brittle, deformed, squishy, or have hairline cracks, get the hose replaced.

In addition check other fluids in you car like your oil, power steering fluid, and especially brake fluid.  How does your car’s brake fluid look?  Hopefully not black and dirty like this.  Brake fluid should be replaced every 2 years.  Having properly working brakes in the Winter is vitally important.

5. Check your Tires

When is the last time you checked the pressure in your tires?  Tires lose about 1psi for every 10 degree change in temperature.   You gas mileage will improve if they are at the proper pressure and your car will handle better.  Also make sure you have adequate tread.  An easy way to do this is to take a penny and insert Lincoln’s head into your tire tread.  “If you can see the top of Lincoln’s head, your tread is dead!”

If you live in climate that gets heavy snow, switching to snow tires for the winter might not be bad idea.  (It’s kind of pain though!)

6. Wipers!

Windshield wipers are very easy to overlook, but important for inclement weather.  If you have bad wipers, you won’t be able to see when it is raining, sleeting, or snowing.  Check your wipers are not streaking or have rubber falling off.  If they are old and are not doing the job, replace them.  I recommend Bosch frame-less wipers, which last longer and work better.

Replacing your Windshiled Wipers is really easy.  Checkout Aaron’s video on “How to Replace and Install Windshield Wipers” and you will see how easy you can do it.

How to Prepare your Car for Winter

I hope enjoyed our guide on “How to Prepare your Car for Winter.”  If you have a suggestion or comment about winterizing your vehicle and feel I didn’t cover something, let us know below.  Also checkout Aaron’s video on “How to do a Quick Vehicle Inspection” to get a better idea of what to look for if you don’t know.  If you are not comfortable with checking your car yourself, find a good local mechanic that can help you.

Keep warm this winter and please drive safely.  You never know what’s on the road, so please be prepared. 

Adam Yamada-Hanff
Adam has always loved cars and anything with wheels. When he is not writing about interesting stories you might find him jamming on his saxophone, watching movies, creating art, or playing with his two dogs.