Winter Car Maintenance 101: Is Your Car Ready for the Snow and Cold?

To quote a popular television series, “Winter is coming.” And with winter approaching, fall is the best time to prepare your car for the coming season’s snow and cold temperatures. While vehicles require maintenance throughout the year, there are specific tasks associated with winter car maintenance

Inspect and test

A BMW driving in the snow
Driving in Snow | Luka TSikolia via Unsplash

Winter’s cold weather will test your car’s battery. If your battery and its associated charging system aren’t performing as they should, it could leave you stranded with a vehicle that won’t start. Most automotive parts stores, such as Advance Auto Parts, will test your vehicle’s battery and charging system free of charge without an appointment. 

Winter also presents more hours of darkness than summer, as the days are shorter. Therefore, winter driving preparation should include inspecting your car’s headlights and taillights. Winter preparation is an excellent time to replace any lights that do not work or appear dim, and if the lenses appear cloudy or scratched, use a headlight restoration kit to clean and polish them. 

While you should check your car’s tires periodically year-round, inspecting them before winter is essential. If you’ve noticed any tires always need air, or if the tread shows excessive or uneven wear, it’s best to visit a tire professional. Also, installing snow tires could make your winter driving safer, depending on your vehicle and the amount of winter weather you expect. 

Perform routine car maintenance tasks

Routine car maintenance includes changing the engine oil and filter, replacing the fuel filter, and flushing the coolant system at manufacturer-prescribed intervals. If your car isn’t due for a coolant system flush before winter, it’s a good idea to check your coolant (antifreeze) level and strength. Antifreeze degrades over time and becomes less effective at protecting your engine coolant from freezing. Checking the strength of your antifreeze is a simple task, but it requires a special tool available at any automotive supply store. 

Winter is also an excellent time to add a fuel injector cleaner to your gas tank. As its name implies, fuel injector cleaner cleans your car’s fuel injectors, but it also works to keep your fuel flowing by removing water from your fuel system. Adding fuel injector cleaner when filling your gas tank is an easy, inexpensive way to prevent problems. 

Be prepared for winter 

Preparing for a winter-weather driving emergency must take place before the event occurs. While that seems like simple logic, many people get stuck on the roadside in foul weather, unprepared for such an event. Roadside assistance from a company like AAA can save the day, but every car should also have an emergency kit that contains the following:

  • Drinking water
  • First-aid kit
  • Non-perishable snacks for any potential humans and pets
  • Traction aid – sand, ice-melting salt, clay cat litter, or traction mats
  • Snow shovel
  • Blankets and extra winter clothes
  • Flashlight with batteries
  • Windshield ice scraper and snow brush
  • Jumper cables and basic handtool set
  • Warning cones, triangles, or flares

How do I protect my car before winter?

Following the advice here is an easy way to protect your car and your loved ones when preparing for winter weather driving. Many of these steps are easy for anyone to perform. Still, if you’re unsure or just want a professional opinion. In that case, it’s worth spending a little on prevention to avoid more costly repairs or a life-threatening situation caused by being unprepared.

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