Winter Maintenance Survival: How to Prepare Your Car For Winter Weather Driving

Not everybody has the luxury of living in an environment that doesn’t experience harsh Winter weather. Consequently, some people aren’t aware that when they prepare to travel to places where inclement weather means snow, sleet, and ice, they need to prepare their cars too! These maintenance tips can save drivers a lot of hassle. Here are some ways to make sure a car is ready for the onslaught of Winter.

Winter maintenance: Tires, snow tires, and chains

A studded snow tire from Michelin is waiting to be used on a rally car during the next maintenance stop.
Studded snow tires of rally cars are seen ahead of the World Rally Championship (WRC) | Mustafa Ciftci/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Motorbiscuit has several posts already about tires. In a nutshell, all-season tires will work in many mild snow situations. However, snow tires will provide a better grip as the accumulation of the white stuff adds up. But, possibly changing out for snow tires is not the only maintenance item to consider. Depending on the driver’s location, the municipalities may require a set of tire chains. So, keep that in mind if travel plans mean heading to a harsh winter weather region.

Winter maintenance: Wipers, washer fluid, and rain repellent

Wipers are great when they work. Inspect them ahead of time for cracks and rips. The last thing a driver wants is a streaky windshield, or worse, wipers that don’t clean at all. Thankfully, it is easy maintenance.

Not all washer fluids are the same. If a car spends its life in warm or moderate weather climates, then a regular windshield washer fluid will work. However, suppose a driver is heading for northerly points, for example, where Winter begins with freezing temperatures in October and end in March. In that case, a windshield washer de-icer is a better choice. It costs a little bit more. However, the de-icing properties are not a scam. They do work well in lower temperatures when compared to regular windshield washer fluid.

A windshield rain repellent, such as Rain-X, will help as well. It is a coating applied to a dry windshield and then buffed. The coating causes moisture to roll off the glass easier. This is another easy maintenance item.

Winter maintenance: Lighting

Lighting is extremely important in states where winter weather is peculiarly hard. Sometimes the snow and ice will get caked on to headlights, brake lights, and turn signals. Of course, the cake-ing obscures lighting. Winter storms will reduce visibility on their own. There is no need for a driver to make it worse by driving through blowing wind with poor lighting. Take time before every trip to wipe off lighting as necessary, but don’t use something that will scratch the lenses.

An emergency kit

An emergency kit is a good thing to have. It is ideal to have a first aid kit in the vehicle all year round, regardless of the car being located in a winter weather area or not. It is also wise to have a spare set of basic tools, such as a pair of pliers, a phillips-head screwdriver, a flat-head (or straight-slot) screwdriver, tire plugs, jumper cables, and a spare serpentine belt. This will enable the ability to do minor maintenance as necessary, provided the vehicle is in a safe area to do so.

A blue first-aid kit for roadside emergencies.
Roadside emergency first-aid kit | Danny de Bruyne via FreeImages

What Tools Do You Need in Your Maintenance Toolbox?

Overnight bag

Something that is not often considered, but maybe it should be, is that winter weather states do a lot to clear the roads as quickly as possible. But, they can’t always keep up with the rate the snow or sleet comes down. So, sometimes people get stranded in their cars until help can arrive. For that reason, it is a good idea to keep an emergency overnight bag in the vehicle. It can get cold in a car real quick. So, such a bag should contain extra gloves, warm socks, a warm sweater, a pair of sweat pants, and maybe a fleece blanket. But don’t just pack the bag and put it in the car forever. Check and replace items yearly because people change clothing sizes from year to year. It’s not exactly vehicle maintenance, but it can save your life if one is stuck in a vehicle.

Winter weather driving can be challenging. But, knowing that the vehicle has been prepared can bring some peace of mind. Addressing tire concerns early, taking care of wipers and their fluids, making sure lights stay free of caked-on snow or ice, and having an emergency kit and overnight bag on hand can go a long way to making winter weather driving less harrowing. But, those are no substitute for staying in with a warm beverage and taking part in couch therapy or calling for an Uber.