10 Tips On Preparing Your Car For Winter

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Winter can be a nightmare for car owners, especially for those in the northern parts of the US. Due to freezing temperatures with heavy snowfall, vehicles can acquire a lot of damage. Windshields may get packed with snow, windows or doors can freeze, and engines may not start. Your brake fluids may also get frozen and your tires deflated. All these can result in hefty repairs, costing you hundreds or even thousands of dollars later on. 

More importantly, damages to your car added with the different driving hazards caused by freezing rain, snow, ice, slush, and frigid temperatures can create a pretty dangerous situation. This can lead to an accident and put your and your passengers’ lives at risk. So you see, preparing your car for winter is key to preventing expensive repairs, breakdowns, and any mishap down the road.

But how do you do that? Here are 10 tips on how to winter-proof your vehicle. 

1. Switch Your Wiper Blades

Wiper blades get destroyed fast once the snow starts falling or when there’s ice on the glass. So make sure to replace your wiper blades before the cold weather settles in. You can easily get a set of decent wiper blades from the nearest auto accessories store, or you can simply order online. The Bosch Icon, for example, is one of the best wiper blades today. 

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However, if you experience freezing temperatures and heavy snow or rains, you might be better off with winter wiper blades. They have a tougher tensile strength, allowing them to sweep off ice and snow easier. They also have a protective rubber layer, which allows them to keep working even against the elements. Additionally, they won’t freeze when the weather is too bad, unlike ordinary wipers.

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If you’re interested in using winter wiper blades, check out the TRICO Ice 35-260. They are designed to protect you from severe weather conditions, including ice and snow. They are also tough and durable, resisting tearing even in sub-zero temperatures. 

Not changing your wiper blades in winter can be very dangerous. If a sudden strong storm or snowfall happens and you’re caught with old and incapable wiper blades, then you might not see the road ahead of you. And if you can’t see, there’s a high chance that you’ll get into an accident. 

2. Check Your Tires

Your tires need a lot of preparation before winter comes. So to make sure you have everything covered, here are things you have to check: 

Tire Tread Depth

Having worn tires on wet roads spells disaster. Your stopping distance will increase, and there’s a high chance you’ll skid. One skid into the curb even at a slow speed can cause you thousands of dollars worth in damages, particularly in your steering and suspension. So before you head over to the road and drive during winter, make sure to check your tires for tread wear. 

To check for tire tread depth, you can use the “Penny Test.” Just take a penny and put it in the tread grooves of your tire with Honest Abe’s head upside down. If the penny sticks so deep into the tread that the top of Lincoln’s head is no longer visible, then you’re tires are still good. However, if you can still see his entire head, then your tires are worn and it’s time for you to replace them. Remember, do the penny test at the center and outer edges of each of your tires. 

Tire Pressure

Once temperatures reach below 32 degrees, your tires tend to deflate. When your tire pressure is low, your gas mileage is decreased and your tires will wear out faster. More importantly, deflated tires are incredibly dangerous on winter roads and bad weather conditions since you’ll have less control of your vehicle. 

So during the winter season, make sure to check your tire pressure every week. To do this, you can take your car to a mechanic and have him/her fill your tires if necessary. If you know how to do it, you can also check the tire pressure and fill your tires yourself at a local gas station.

Consider Snow Tires

For those who frequently experience severe winter weather with heavy snow and rough terrain, consider switching to snow tires or winter tires. Compared to all-season tires, winter tires offer better grip and traction. They will also help get you started faster from a full stop and reduce your stopping distance. 

Winter tires are the best if you have snowy and icy surfaces. They can make you stop faster, reduce your chances of side skids, and provide you better handling in turns. Moreover, they can save you from potential accidents. 

On the downside, snow tires can be pricey. According to the CostHelper, a set of four snow tires can cost $250 or more, depending on the size. Since these rates do not include the wheels, you’ll need to pay a shop to swap the tires and do your re-mounting and re-balancing. Typically, this costs around $40 to $80 each time. Or, if you want, you can permanently mount the winter tires on another set of wheels, which can cost you another $120 to $500. 

3. Check Your Battery

The cold weather adds strain to your batteries, making them die and unable to start your car during winter. Not to mention that car batteries have limited life too. So before you find yourself stranded in the middle of the road while the snow is falling and the wind blowing, better check your battery and make sure it’s ready for winter. 

You can use a voltmeter to check if your battery is still in good condition. It should read at least 12.4 volts or higher. Anything lower, then you’ll need to have your battery replaced by a professional. 

You should also check and make sure the components around the battery are in good shape. This includes the connections, posts, fasteners, and cables. If you notice any corrosion, you can use a stiff wire brush to clean it off. 

4. Prepare Your Car Fluids for Winter

Winter can cause plenty of problems with the fluids in your car. If they are not designed for the dropping temperatures, they’ll move more sluggishly or slow. Worse, they may even freeze inside the system. So if you live in a climate with freezing temperatures during winter, preparing your car fluids should be one of your top concerns. 

For one, you should make sure that your engine oil is rated for your expected temperatures. You should also check your coolant system and, if necessary, change or refill it with the proper water to antifreeze blend. Check your brake fluid as well and ensure it’s keeping its anti-corrosive properties. Finally, consider upgrading to winter-grade windshield wiper fluid as this can loosen ice and snow and resist freezing. 

5. Lube Window Tracks

During winter, it’s not uncommon to find freezing water seeping into a vehicle’s window tracks. This creates a drag when the windows are opened, causing damages to the window regulator cables. Such a problem may seem simple, but it costs a lot – almost $300. To prevent this, consider lubricating your window tracks with a dry Teflon spray or a silicone spray. 

Don’t have a silicone spray yet? Check out the Permatex 80070 Lubricant or the very popular WD-40 Specialist Silicone Lubricant

6. Lubricate Weather Stripping

Car doors freeze during winter due to the water seeping between the door and the weather stripping, and then freezing. So to stop this from happening, you need to coat all your car’s mating door surfaces and weather strippings with a silicone spray or Teflon spray. And don’t forget to apply it to your trunk’s lid as well. 

7. Lube Latch on Hood

During the cold season, the cars in front of you will be spraying salt all over, causing some of your car parts to corrode and stop working. And this includes your hood’s latch mechanism. If it’s not working properly, you won’t be able to get under the hood and fix the problems that may arise. So to avoid this, make sure to lubricate the latch on your car’s hood before the snow starts to fall. 

You’ll need a lithium grease spray to soak the latch. You will then need to open and close your hood a few times so the lubricant can work into the latch and spring. Once you are done, you can forget about it for the rest of winter. 

8. Lubricate Door Locks 

Even if you’re using a remote keyless entry, lubricating your door locks are still important. This will prevent your lock cylinders from corroding. So if your key fob battery dies, you can use your key and avoid getting locked out of your car.

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To lubricate your door locks, including your trunk lock, you can use a graphite lock lubricate. Just apply it into the keyway but make sure not to overdo it. Or, if you want, you can also use a dry Teflon spray like the DuPont Multi-Use Lubricant. It can dissolve any sticky parts inside the lock cylinders and coat them in Teflon particles so they can operate smoothly. 

9. Have a Car Tune-Up or Inspection 

Regular car maintenance and inspection are always a good idea, no matter the season. But they become even more crucial when you’re expecting extreme temperature and weather changes. Remember, snow, ice, slush, and road salt can all be harmful to your vehicle’s systems.

For one, the cold winter weather adds extra moisture to your brakes, which then affects the length of time it takes to fully stop your car. The road salt can also cause rust spots on your rotors and reduce your brake’s performance. These problems, plus the dangerous driving conditions during the winter months, can put you at risk of accidents. So better have your car tuned up and inspected before and during the season. 

A car tune-up is also great to make sure you’re not forgetting any winter-proofing steps. 

10. Have a Winter Emergency Kit Ready

Preparing your car for winter also includes putting together an emergency kit, which will come in handy in case you experience any roadside emergencies. Simply get a box or a bag, leave it inside your vehicle at all times, and fill it with the following items: 

  • Basics: Every winter survival kit should contain the basics, including a flashlight, water, snacks, a first-aid kit, and extra batteries. For your snacks, make sure that they don’t spoil, such as energy bars. 
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  • Cell phone car charger: Your phone needs to be charged so you can call for help in case of emergencies. Since many tend to leave their chargers at home or work, it can help to have a spare charger for your devices in your car.
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  • Foldable Shovel: You’ll need a shovel to dig out compacted snow around your wheels or under your car. But since a full-sized shovel takes too much space, it’s better to look for a foldable one like the Redcamp Military Folding Camping Shovel
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  • Tire chains: If there’s a layer of fully compacted snow or ice on the road, you can use tire chains or snow chains to gain back traction and get to where you need to be. Take note, however, that states can have different laws regarding chain usage. 
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  • Jumper cables: Always carry jumper cables so you never have to pay a tow truck to get your car to start. 
  • Road flares or whistle: These items will come in handy if you need to attract attention. 
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  • Ice scraper or snowbrush: You’ll need these items to easily clear thick ice and remove a heavy layer of snow on your car. If you don’t have one yet, we suggest the Mallory USA snow brush with foam grip. 
  • Cold-weather gear: This includes an extra pair of winter gloves, socks, and boots. You should also consider throwing in a hat and blanket. All these are essential in keeping you warm in case you ever get stranded during winter. 
  • Salt, sand, cat litter, or safety absorbent: When you get stuck on ice, you’ll need any one of these items as they can help your vehicle regain traction. 

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