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Winter Car Maintenance and Preparation Tips

By Edited Jan 31, 2016 9 19

Winter Car Maintenance and Preparation

Snow Tires & Winter Road Prep

Car maintenance is a year round job. One day you are soaking in the sun and seemingly the next, the first frost has arrived. Soon it will be Halloween then off to Christmas and deep wintertime. Before winter hits and you get stuck in the cold, get prepared for cold weather--winterize your car. Depending on your winter climate there are different things to do to winterize your car and/or truck. This is for those who expect cold weather winters like freezing temperatures and snow. Preparing ahead for a harsh winter is smarter than getting stuck on the side of the road.

Cold Weather Prep: Auto and Truck

Driving during wintertime is very dangerous. It's not only you on the road, but many others who don't know how to drive in extreme temperatures or in the snow. For example, every year it snows more than an inch in Seattle, Washington the roads are shut down and drivers abandon their cars, trucks and luxury vehicles along the highway and at the bottom of steep hills. It may be safer to sideline the car, but you want you car as prepared as possible for any situation. One way to be prepared is to get your car ready for cold weather and winter by using these car maintenance and preparations tips. They work for winterizing a car or truck.

Car Maintenance Tips for Winter and Freezing Temperatures

There are some very specific tips for winter maintenance and preparation of a car or truck.
One of the first winter car maintenance tips is changing the oil. This is not only a car winterizing tip, but part of good car maintenance. Although there is a standard every car varies for oil type and some require different oil during cold weather. To prepare a truck or car for winter the oil needs to be changed to a multi-viscosity oil like 5W-30 or oil for high mileage vehicles (over 100,000 miles). If you are debating whether your car needs an oil change as part of its winter maintenance and prep then check the weather forecast for your area. If your car is not due for an oil change yet then just check its oil. Keep the weather in mind next time you get an oil change so you can prepare ahead of time.

One of the most important winter driving tips is to keep your gas tank filled above halfway. By making sure it has gas you can prevent fuel lines from freezing. Some people use Heet, an additive for gasoline that helps prevent frozen fuel lines, especially on older vehicles and freezing temperatures. Keeping the gas over half full also gives peace of mind that you wont run out if you are in a traffic jam. As mentioned above Seattle drivers desert their vehicles alongside the roadways during horrible snow storms or accumulation. The traffic jams that occur during bad winter weather can be exceptionally long, so be prepared.

Check the coolant. Antifreeze and water are used throughout the year to keep a car's radiator full. Running out of water will ruin your engine and so will There are premixed antifreeze bottles that make it easier than mixing the antifreeze yourself, but over time it can still thin out. Antifreeze is one of the most important winter preparation tips for your car. Most oil change places can also flush the antifreeze coolant and replace it. If you sample your antifreeze and it is not bright green then you should have your coolant flushed or drained and filled. Antifreeze is lethal to some animals so dispose of it properly. Check car hoses, too.

Care for the car battery. One of the first things to go out on a car or truck during the winter is the car battery. A dead car battery will leave you stranded. If you use a different car during the winter or have an older car then it is highly recommended that you get a battery charger. There are cheap portable battery chargers that also double as air compressors, like the Energizer Battery Jumpstarter (these make great holiday gifts as well). The are also places that do free battery tests for cars and trucks.

Check the windshield wiper blades to make sure they are in good condition.

Car Maintenance Prep for Snow: Tires

Check the tread on your tires. Tires are one of the most important parts of a properly running vehicle regardless of the time of year. As a part of winter car maintenance for your car you need to check the tread. Without good tread your car or truck cannot grip the road well and you can skid into an accident. While checking tire tread during winter car maintenance make sure they have the right air pressure. Having the right tire pressure is part of important car maintenance. Checking tire pressure during winter car maintenance and preparation can help prevent an accident. Tires overfilled can reduce important traction and underfilled car tires can give you bad gas mileage. Keeping the tire pressure at the right number helps the car drive better and contributes to eco-friendly driving. You should also check your brakes, especially if you notice squeaking or other problems. The car or truck brakes get a workout during the winter because you have to drive different in the snow.

Car and Truck Snow Tires
Check Tire Tread During Winter Car Maintenance

If you will be traveling over winter mountain passes or otherwise need car chains make sure to put them in the trunk now. Get car tire chains before the first snow hits and stores are sold out. That also goes for buying car and truck snow tires. The best car winter tire is the Michelin Xi2 and the best studded snow tire is the Nokian Hakkapeliitta 5. Driving on a good winter tire is important. Those needing discount winter tires should ask the tire store about pre-used snow tires. Buying discount tires help ease any financial blow. Make sure they are in good shape as part of your truck and car winter maintenance and preparation.

Winter Emergency Car Kit Preparation

Winter car maintenance and preparation also includes being prepared for a road emergency. There are some things that need to be in the trunk of your car or truck bed besides tire chains. Every car and truck needs an emergency car kit, winter or not. A winter emergency car kit should include jumper cables, blankets, flashlight, flares, ice scrapers, water, change of clothes, extra shoes, winter coat, as well as weight for the rear of the vehicle. The best thing to put in the trunk or back of the truck is a a few bags of 20 lb cat litter. The weight helps keep your car from sliding around on icy roads improving winter tire performance. If you do get stuck you can spread the cat litter under the car or snow tires for traction. Remember the cat litter winter driving tip to get out of icy spots. Add anything that you need for at least a 24 hour period (medication, snacks) in case you are stranded.

Winter Car Maintenance Tips

Using these vehicle maintenance tips for winter will help you ensure a safer trip. Good defensive driving, car maintenance, awareness, prevention and preparation can all help you have a better chance at avoiding accidents and disasters. For those driving four wheel drive (4WD) trucks and cars keep in mind that these winterization tips apply to your vehicle. Some 4WD truck drivers erroneously think their 4WD can drive through anything. Just because your truck is "Ford Tough" doesn't mean it wont skid on black ice. Prepare your 4WD vehicle for winter driving and cold weather.

Discount Car Maintenance

Not everyone can afford to do all of these car maintenance tips. Some tips are more important than others like keeping gas in it, filling the antifreeze. One way to save on auto maintenance is doing it yourself. But, if you don't know how then ask around your friends for someone who knows basic car mechanics. Instead of paying a stranger, buy an oil filter, oil, and antifreeze for your car and pay a friend. Sometimes pride may get in the way so think about how you ask or approach it. Just make sure the winter car maintenance steps get done.

Don't forget to prep your home for the winter with the home winterization tips.

Image Credit: Tire Tread



Oct 31, 2010 2:11am
Great advice! I haven't changed the oil in my car in over a year. I work from home so I rarely drive. I suppose I should get my car ready for another cold and snowy Minnesota winter.
Oct 31, 2010 10:29pm
I just take my car to the dealer and tell them to do whatever they need to do to it for it to survive the winter. It would probably be cheaper if I actually knew what it needed.
Nov 7, 2010 4:28pm
Definitely. Although especially taking it to the dealer. They are usually more expensive that a shop. Next time you take it though ask them exactly what they did and why, how it helps you. Some of this I learned just by asking tons of questions trying not to get screwed over at the shop! It's always good to ask questions (even when you don't understand the answer!).
Nov 19, 2010 12:09am
This is excellent advice. One of our daughters is moving from Dallas to Boston next year, and she will definitely need this information. I will send your article to her! Thanks for the detailed and well-written information!
Nov 19, 2010 12:25am
Timely feature JP, excellent article.
Nov 19, 2010 10:58am
Nice front page article. I didn't know about keeping gas tank half full-nice tip!
Nov 19, 2010 11:26am
this writting is very useful!now i am not having car but when i have its ,i will do following this advice.
Nov 19, 2010 8:23pm
Very good front page article.
Nov 20, 2010 8:59am
Where I live "all season tires" are a laugh in the winter. We need good snow tires or you risk being stranded. Really good advice, great article!
Nov 20, 2010 1:05pm
We got a few inches in Vancouver last night.. I was having fun ripping around in the 4WD
Nov 21, 2010 5:20pm
I bet!
Nov 20, 2010 10:02pm
Congratulations on getting onto the front page! Very timely topic. No snow here yet...
Nov 20, 2010 10:46pm
Great tips, I use the dealer too since I just find it easier. Good to know what to look for and do though. Winter will eventually be here:)
Nov 20, 2010 11:09pm
jp - Congrats on the feature. It is well deserved.
Nov 21, 2010 5:22pm
Thanks for the comments guys! I really appreciate it. And the feature was a surprise so that was awesome!
Dec 19, 2010 3:37pm
Very useful tips! You reminded me to check the oil and tire pressure.
Dec 19, 2010 4:46pm
@David - Right on! Thanks for the comment. Glad the tips helped.
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