I am not a big fan of winter. It’s cold. And driving out to work in the morning takes an additional 10-15 minutes because of all the things you need to do to make your car ready to go!
You need to remove ice or frost on the windshields, brush off snow, start and wait until the A/C system spews out enough heat for the car. And I live in Nashville, TN where we only get snow twice or three times in a year.
Winter is here and we need to make sure our cars can withstand the cold. Here’s how to winterize your car. Follow these tips to prepare your car for winter.
This post is long, feel free to jump into the section that you need to check out. Use the Table of Contents below to help you navigate through this post.
Park Your Car Somewhere Safe
This means keeping your car in your garage, if you have one. You keep your car away from Elsa’s frozen breath and keep it safer. Plus, you won’t need to deal with the hassles of removing ice and snow and whatever else the elements throws at it.
If you live in an apartment complex (like I do), find the best place to park closest to your apartment. Avoid parking near trees with large drooping branches. You never know when those branches decide to drop dead into your car. They can drag your car into the abyss if they fall on them! Just imagine the inconvenience and the insurance headaches!!
To minimize the snow that falls into your car and to provide additional protection, consider using a snow cover. You can choose one that covers only the windshield or one that covers that whole car.
Pack an Emergency Kit
You may not be a race driver and a drifter. You may even be a good driver most of the time. But winter can challenge your skills in many different ways.
In case that you encounter the Snowpocalypse while you’re driving, you better be sure that you have the basic necessities to survive. You’re not up against ice zombies, but the intensely cold weather can suck the life out of you if you get stuck in your car during heavy winter.
Here’s a list of things you need to keep in your car during the winter:
- Blanket or sleeping bag
- Small shovel
- Ice scraper and snow brush
- Hand Crank Radio
- Extra battery for your phone
The Ready America 70410 Cold Weather Survival Kit has most of these things.
Winter Driving Tips
Driving in the winter is different from driving in the summer, unless you live in a state where the winters are mild and really disguised as a colder version of fall. Drivers who live in a winter-prone, cold state, may already have driving skills for winter.
Here are some driving tips for winter
Monitor the weather and the roads in your area.
Local news channels often provide this information. Don’t leave your house without checking the forecast and the condition of the roads. My city doesn’t have the capacity to deal with even an inch of snow. That means school and work cancellation if snow happens.
Watch out for slick surfaces.
The roads are slick because of ice. You can’t even see when black ice forms on the road. This is especially true on bridges, which freezes more quickly than the roads.
Allow for more space between you and other cars.
Because the roads are slick, you’d want to keep at a safe distance from other cars. Braking on slick surfaces can send your car on a tailspin or it might slide and bump into other cars.
Don’t warm up your car in the garage or any other enclosed area.
This can put you and your family at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Drive out of your garage and warm it up a bit before driving away.
Make sure you have at least a half tank full of gas.
If the weather makes a turn for the worse, you don’t want to be in line at the pump with a hundred other cars. Besides, the extra weight will help stabilize your car.
Accelerate and slow down carefully.
Go easy on the gas pedal. Don’t accelerate quickly because you may spin. The same thing applies to slowing down, do it slowly and carefully. If you have an appointment or schedule, plan in advance and leave earlier than usual to allow for traffic and other weather conditions.
Be careful driving up and down the hills.
Build up some momentum before climbing a hill. Don’t power through a hill and apply more gas. That will just get you wheels spinning uselessly if you don’t have good momentum. Reduce your speed going down the hill.
Winter is terribly brutal to your battery. It’s like an Ice Dragon breathing blue fire intent on freeze-burning your battery.
But seriously, winter can reduce the capacity of your battery. Oftentimes, batteries that are older and are due for replacement often decide to conk out during the winter.
Bring your battery to a nearby auto store such as Autozone to have it checked. They can do it for free. Here’s a list of where to have your battery checked for free.
Even before the first snowflakes fall, open your car hood and look for cracks and breaks along the battery cables. Make sure that there is no loose terminal connection. If your battery has any corrosion clean it up.
And if you bought your battery five or six years ago, it simply means it may be time for a battery replacement.
Read our articles on taking care of your battery:
- How Often Should You Change Your Car Battery
- How to Clean Corrosion in Your Car Battery
- How to Take Care of Your Car Battery
- Where can I Get My Car Battery Checked?
- What to Do When Your Car Battery is Dead
- How to Get a Car to Start in the Cold
Windshield, Wipers, and Windows
Unless you want to drive through a kaleidoscope of ice and frost, you need to remove the frost and ice on your windshield and car windows. It’s a big pain in your behind. But it’s the only way to drive safe and see the road clearly.
Do check the health of your wipers and replace them if needed. Once you replace them, don’t ever let them wipe your ice or frost-covered windshield. That’s the quickest way to destroy them.
Ice, ice scraper!
You will need to buy an ice scraper, preferably a long one with snow brush so you can remove the snow that accumulates on top of your car. Also make sure to have gloves on you because ice scraping is a cold, cold process!
Get a good deicer or make your own deicer spray using rubbing alcohol or vinegar. Once you remove the snow on your car, you can use a deicer spray to make the process easier.
I usually put all-weather wiper fluid on a spray bottle and use it to melt the ice on the windshield and the windows. It works wonders and it is dirt cheap!
Make sure to check the fluids in your car. This may not be too much of a problem if you follow the regular maintenance schedule of your car. But because of the cold weather, it helps to check if your fluids can withstand the winter.
Follow the correct mixture of antifreeze and water to prevent it from freezing. You can actually buy a pre-mixed coolant so all you need is to pour it into the reservoir. If you’re not used to doing this yourself, make sure that you are pouring it into the correct reservoir. Consult your owner’s manual.
Brake Fluid, Transmission Fluid
These fluids tend not to freeze during the winter. Do check if they have correct levels to prevent problems from occurring. Following regular maintenance schedules on your car will go a long way towards ensuring a good running car during the winter.
Mechanics recommend using a thinner engine oil if you are in an area where the temperatures drop so low that even your car wants to hibernate. Do check with your trusted mechanic for recommendations.
These are useful when you are driving and frost starts forming on your windshield. If you have winter-resistant wiper fluid, you can just crank them to spray on your windshield and they can clear away the frost. But the trick is to make sure that you have a winter-ready wiper fluid.
Remember your science in high school? Heat makes air expand and cold makes it contract? That lesson is useful for your tires in the winter.
Make sure that your tires are inflated correctly. Invest on a tire pressure gauge, it costs less than $10 on Amazon. You can check the tire pressure in the garage and if you need to stop by a gas station with an air station to add air to your tires.
If the place you live in doesn’t really get a lot of snow, you don’t need snow tires. But check the tread of your tires if it still has a lot of life left. You may also want to consider buying winter chains for your car if your city get a great deal of snow.
How to Prevent Rust on Car in the Winter
During the winter, salt and other chemicals like calcium chloride will be used to treat the roads, melt them, and remove ice, frost, and snow. It’s generally good for everyone because we are all safe while driving.
But the salt, moisture, and other chemicals will be bad for your car and its body. If you’re not careful, winter roads and its chemicals can wear your car paint down and introduce rust!
After a big storm, wash your car!
Be proactive and clean your car after a storm. This will prevent the build up of salt and other winter chemicals on your car. If you live in an area that’s frequently snowed in, washing your car every few weeks should do the trick.
Make sure that the under chassis of your car also gets a good wash because it really is the most vulnerable to rust and other chemicals. When you wash your car, don’t do it when the temperature is below freezing. Water will just freeze over your car, and you’ll have more problems to worry about.
A cool trick: underside oil!
Here’s a cool trick from old farmers of really cold states. They coat the underside of their car with oil! For us, simple humans these days, waxing our cars before winter usually does the trick. For the underside, check with a collision shop near you if they can spray a solution to protect it from salt and too much moisture.
Even before winter, go to your mechanic for a quick pre-winter inspection. They can help you identify problematic areas in your car and help prevent further damage.
Inside the car
Snow melts and your shoes will pick mud and other dirt. Once you step into your car, so will the dirt. Better make sure that you have good all-weather floor mats to keep your carpet clean!
Make sure to stock up some snack items that can last for a long time. This will help you cope with any emergency situation brought on by winter weather.
It is also a good idea to keep an emergency tool kit inside your car. In case you slide on the road and find yourself in the ditch, you have something to cut the seatbelt or break the glass if needed.
Winter is just part of our year. We just need to live with it. Good thing, we can prepare for it. If you want your car to be ready, then make sure to heed our tips.
The best thing to remember is to stay safe and warm during the winter. Your car also needs your tender loving care so it can last for a long, long time.