5 Tips for Winterizing Your Car
When temperatures begin to dip, it becomes time to unbox the boots, check the furnace and prepare your car for winter. The five must-do items to prepare your vehicle for winter driving and to ensure you stay safe on potentially icy and snow-covered roads include:
- Buy or create an emergency breakdown kit
- Check the tires
- Test the battery
- Drain and refill the radiator with the right mix of antifreeze and water
- Replace the windshield wipers
Get a car emergency kit
You should carry an emergency breakdown kit in every vehicle you drive. Look for a prepackaged roadside emergency kit that includes essentials like a reflective hazard warning sign, jumper cables, an ice scraper, a nine-piece ratchet set, pliers, screwdrivers, electrical tape, fuses and work gloves. Alternately, put together a kit from your own stock of safety equipment and tools.
During the winter, make sure every car or truck your family uses has a first aid kit and a plastic tote containing winter survival gear. That gear includes, but is not limited to, a spare cell phone and battery charger that plugs into a dashboard lighter or outlet; extra clothes, hats and gloves; a blanket; a flashlight with fresh batteries; candles; matches; and bottled water and food such as granola that will not spoil. If you live in areas that often experience heavy snowfalls, place a small shovel and broom, a bag of kitty litter or rock salt, and a tow chain or rope in your car.
Make sure your tires are ready
Properly inflated tires provide the best traction and handling on even icy and snowy roads. Check the owner’s manual for each of your vehicles to ensure every tire has the correct pressure. Doing this is especially important during the winter because the air in the tires contracts when outside temperatures fall.
This preventive maintenance applies even more to snow tires. Before you change from all-weather tires to snow tires, have the season-specific equipment inspected by a tire specialist. The time to have this done ranges from mid-November to early December, depending on your location.
If you’re not sure which winter tires you need to travel safely in your area, a Sears automotive specialist can help you select the right tires.
Check the battery
A hot cup of coffee may get you started on a winter’s morning, but your vehicle needs a bit more of a jolt. Cold weather lowers the cranking capacity of a car or truck battery. Consequently, your vehicle winterizing car checklist must include having each battery in every family vehicle inspected. Have a qualified technician check each terminal, cable and fluid level. If you learn that it’s time for a new battery, don’t delay. Driving around with an old, weak battery raises your risk of getting stranded.
Fix the antifreeze mix
When temperatures drop low enough, the water in a vehicle’s engine can freeze and cause major damage. Antifreeze helps prevent this. At the beginning of each winter, check your owner’s manual and make sure your car or truck’s radiator is filled with the correct mix of water and antifreeze. Also check the levels of all your vehicle’s other fluids and top those off as needed.
Replace worn windshield wipers
Wipers with worn rubber parts will not clear snow, slush and salt properly from the windshield. Visibly inspect the windshield wipers on your car or truck for damage and check to see if they make good contact with the window. Replace both blades at the same time if one is no longer usable and also take the time to refill the windshield washer reservoir. Keep the reservoir topped off throughout winter so you can wash away salt and sludge and ensure the best visibility.