It’s important for car owners to get ready for winter because winter weather can have adverse effects on your car and driving. Rich White, executive director of the Car Care Council, summarizes the important steps to winterizing your car as maintain, test and prepare.
Step 1: Good maintenance
“Good, proactive maintenance on a regular schedule helps keep your car dependable, all the time,” agrees John Tisdale, assistant vice president, test development operations at National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). “Follow the maintenance schedules in your car owner’s manual,” Tisdale says.
There are two kinds of maintenance schedules for cars, says Dave Skaien, approved auto repair program development manager for AAA. There’s one schedule for regular maintenance and one for severe maintenance, depending on miles driven and usage conditions.
Typical features for maintenance include oil changes, tire rotation and fluid replacement. Fluids for winter should be rated so that they don’t freeze.
Newer vehicles don’t require as much maintenance as older vehicles, but White warns that you shouldn’t “have the false assumption that you don’t have to care for your vehicle.”
Step 2: Test/Check
Before heading out into the dangers of winter, the experts we talked to agree you should test or check, the following:
Tire pressure and tread wear – Tires are the four most important safety features on your car, says Skaien. Tires are very important for traction and handling in the wet or cold weather conditions.
Brakes – Brakes are important when driving on icy or snow-covered roads. It’s important to have them checked.
Heating and defroster system – Check the vents for heat coming out. A clogged cabin filter will reduce air flow for the defroster and should be replaced.
Lights – Lights are extremely important to make your vehicle visible in the snow and darkness. AAA has found that lights with cloudy lenses can significantly reduce visibility. Cloudy lenses may need to be repaired or replaced.
Wiper blades and fluid – If you turn on the wipers and there is significant streaking, you may need new blades. You can try cleaning them, but if that doesn’t work, replace them. It’s also a good idea to keep an extra set in the trunk of the car. Washer fluid bought in the summer may freeze; make sure it is rated for below 32 degrees.
Coolant – Check the coolant level and make sure to use anti-freeze rated for winter weather conditions.
Battery – You can check the battery terminals for corrosion. However, Tisdale recommends having a trusted technician check the battery for maintaining a charge.
Back-up camera and sensors – Snow or dirt can cover these devices. Your owners’ manual will show where they are so that you can clean them.
Spare tire, jack, tire inflator kit – Make sure the spare tire has the proper air pressure, the jack works and (if you don’t have a spare) that the inflator kit is full.