Updated: January 31, 2023
Winter’s wet and icy roads can pose a great danger to drivers, and those who take their cars out on the road without the proper preparation will be in particular danger. In order to help you stay safe out there when the cold weather comes, SpareFoot has put together the following guide detailing the steps you should take to winterize your car so that you’re prepared for winter driving.
Everything You Need to Know About Preparing Your Car for Winter
Whether you recently moved for the first time to an area that experiences severe winter weather, or you are planning a road trip to a cold weather region, you will want to take all of the precautions you can to prevent a breakdown or an accident by winterizing your car.
Need winter car storage? Consider renting a car storage unit with SpareFoot’s car storage page.
1. Check Your Tire Pressure
Wet or icy roads are dangerous and can make winter driving especially hazardous! Make sure you have adequate tread on your tires and check that the air pressure inside your tire is at the correct level. Tire treads should be at a minimum of 5/32″ when driving on snow to prevent slipping. If you live in an area that sees a high amount of snowfall, consider winter tires, which are made of resistant rubber and have deeper tire treads.
2. Change Your Oil
Cold temperatures cause oil to thicken, which can prevent it from lubricating your engine, causing damage. Fill your engine with an oil of lower viscosity. The number before the W represents viscosity, so 5W-30 has a lower viscosity than 10W-40. Check your owner’s manual for the right type. So if you haven’t gotten an oil change recently, be sure to take care of that before the dead of winter.
3. Wax Your Car
Moisture and road salt are a corrosive combination, and will eat away at your paint. Since paint protects your car’s body, once it’s gone the aluminum underneath can become damaged. Giving your car a wax job is the best way to protect it from corrosive materials. Add a car cover when not in use for extra protection.
4. Switch Out Wiper Blades
Regular wiper blades struggle with snow and ice. Switch to winter wiper blades to ensure visibility. Windshield wiper fluid can freeze and will be unable to spray. Switch to a winter washer fluid that won’t freeze. Check with your local auto parts store to see what is available, and in many cases they will install them for you for no extra charge.
5. Inspect Belts & Hoses
It never hurts to take your car in for a tune-up, particularly just before the hard winter months. Make sure your engine’s belts and hoses are in good condition. These become more brittle in the cold and are more likely to snap or break when the temperature drops.
6. Add Antifreeze
Antifreeze, or engine coolant, is mixed with water (50/50 ratio) and is meant to regulate your engine as the temperature outside changes from extreme hot and cold. Proper levels of antifreeze will help prevent corrosion. It is recommended that you at least check your antifreeze/coolant levels twice a year.
7. Keep Your Tank Full
During the winter, moisture can build up in your gas tank and corrode the metal inside. If this moisture freezes, you could experience heavy damage. Prevent this by always keeping your tank above half full. The gasoline will absorb any moisture before it builds up.
Things you Should Pack in Your Car During the Winter
- Gloves Will make using everything else that much easier. There is a reason your car has a glove box after all!
- Ice scraper Easily scrape the ice off your windshield rather than waiting for it to thaw.
- Small shovel Helps clear paths and remove snow that can accumulate on your vehicle.
- Tire chains Used to gain traction on those icy roads, these are only a must if you frequently drive on unplowed roads.
- Kitty litter, road salt, or sand all three are deicers that will help thaw the snow on the road and provide traction if you get stuck.
- Extra batteries Having an extra car battery is a good idea, as winter weather can sap the juice from one that is near the end of its life.
- Emergency kit An emergency first aid kit should include a safety vest, flares, flashlight, first aid supplies and anything else you need incase you find yourself stuck on the side of the road.