By Anthony Santiago - Editor-in-Chief

December 14, 2022
how to prepare your car for winter

Winterize your car, truck or suv for the cold and icy season.

How To Prepare Your Car For Winter Weather and Icy Roads

As the days become shorter and the temperatures drop, it's time to start preparing for the winter weather. Here in NJ, there are sections of the state that get a lot of snow and others that get plowed well from more urban municipalities.

Wherever you are in the country, this article will help you prepare for winter and help keep you safe on the roads during winter.

If you own a car, you know winter can be especially tough on your vehicle. Snow and ice can cause slippery roads, and the cold can cause your to slip and slide on the road. While road salts can help clear the road, preparing your car will help ensure safer driving in the cold.

Also, the cold winter temperatures can wreak havoc on your battery.

As reported by Firestone AutoCare, the battery begins to lose its strength as the temperature drops. The battery can start freezing as the temperature decreases to 32 degrees. Your battery can lose up to 60% of its capacity as the temperature reaches 0 degrees.

Make sure your car is prepared. Taking the necessary steps to winterize your car and car battery for the season is crucial. You want to be ready and prepared.

Let's dive in...

We've covered the importance of tire pressure in a previous article, but you can check that out by clicking here.

To start off this winterize list, we'll start with the essentials before mother nature arrives with the wind chill and snow.

Snow covered car

A winter kit and preparation will keep you moving this winter.

1. Snow Brush or Ice Scraper

You will definitely want to purchase a snowbrush with an ice scraper. Typically these are sold at big box stores or can be purchased on Amazon. The brush length will depend on the size of your vehicle, but typically a normal-sized brush will do just fine.

I look for stiff bristles so they can sweep away the snow without scratching your car's paint. You will want something with a nylon brush.

A quick alternative is to use a kitchen broom or a shop brush in a pinch. While you might be tempted to use your regular broom at home, you do run the risk of scratching your paint if you have any dirt or grit trapped. Buy a new brush and keep it in the trunk of your car.

In addition, you will want to have an ice scraper available too. This will help scrape ice formations on the windshield and the windows. They come in all different shapes and sizes. I suggest you pick one up if your brush does not have one.

TIP: Look for handles that are solid and injected molded. Extendable snow brushes can collapse or fail if there is too much pressure from the heavy snow.

Snow brushes are very affordable, and you can pick one up for around $10 - $15 online or at your local retail store.

2. Check Tire Pressure and Tread Depth

Next, check your tires to ensure better traction and safer driving in the winter. It's important to check your tire pressure and tread depth regularly.

The tread of your tires should be at least 3mm deep or more than 3/32 inch tread. Uneven tire tread wear can cause you to lose traction on the road if it exceeds the minimum amount.

Have your tires checked for tread depth if you notice any uneven wear.

Extreme tire wear is another common cause of poor performance on a vehicle. Your tire's performance will degrade as temperatures drop.

An all-season tire was designed to operate all year round.

However, if you get a lot of snow or your location is plowed less often, investing in snow tires will help during winter. This is especially true for icy roads.

Winter tires are made from softer rubber compounds to compensate for the lower temperatures. Their tread pattern allows it to grip better in snow and icy conditions.

If one or more tires have worn down significantly, it may be a good time to replace them.

Besides, if you see any cracks, bubbles in the side wall, or other damage, this could mean that it needs to be replaced before you have an unfortunate blowout.

Also, check to ensure that you are NOT running any seasonal summer tires. The rubber compound will harden as temperatures drop and become unsafe below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

Check Your Tire Pressure

Tire pressure is significant in the winter. The cold weather will contract the air and decrease your tire pressure.

An underinflated tire in the winter can lead to heavy steering and too much traction. It would help if you always inflated your tire to the manufacturer's recommended pressure.

To check the pressure, use a tire pressure gauge and a tire pressure chart to ensure the tires are inflated to the correct pressure.

3. Check Battery Condition

The third step in preparing your car for winter is to check battery life.

Cold weather can reduce a car battery's power, leading to sluggish starts and quickly draining its life.

To prevent this, check your battery's condition as the seasons' change and replace it if necessary. If your battery is more than three to five years old, consider replacing it with a newer model designed for the extreme temperatures of winter.

You should also keep an eye on your battery's charge level and make sure it is always above 12.5 volts.

If your car is slow cranking or takes some time to start, it's a good time to get your battery checked.

Places like Autozone or Advanced Auto can test your battery for free. I recently purchased a battery tester on Amazon, and it helped me determine that we need a new battery this year. It was a small investment, but it will help prepare all my cars for the winter.

4. Replace Windshield Wipers and Refill With Winter Windshield Washer Fluid

Replacing your windshield wipers is essential for preparing your car for winter.

Old windshield wipers can become brittle and crack in cold temperatures. This can lead to streaks, smears, and other visibility issues with your windshield.

A new set of wiper blades will set you back around $40. However, it's recommended to change your wipers once a year.

Also, remember to refill your windshield washer fluid. Using a winter-grade fluid that can withstand freezing temperatures and help melt away snow, road grime, and road salt is a good idea.

You can easily convert your summer washer fluid for winter. Just add 90% rubbing alcohol and a few drops of dish soap to help decrease your fluid freezing over. You will want to test your windshield wiper fluid first in a bottle to ensure it stays liquid.

Inspect and Replace Your Coolant

It is important to inspect your coolant/antifreeze levels before winter. You should check the level and concentration of your coolant. You will want to ensure it is sufficient to protect the vehicle against temperatures that could dip below freezing.

If your coolant is low, do not add water only. You will want to ensure your coolant stays cool but doesn't freeze.

It would be best if you topped it up with the correct antifreeze and water mixture. If the coolant/antifreeze is dirty or contaminated, it should be replaced entirely. A coolant flush and replacement cost around $200.

NEVER mix different color coolants.

If your vehicle takes pink coolant, you will want to use the same. Consult your owner's manual to use the correct antifreeze and water mixture for your vehicle.

Coolant comes in various colors, from green, blue, pink, and clear. Check on the bottle and your owner's manual to see if it's compatible.

In addition to your coolant, it is also an excellent time to check your other fluid levels. Check your oil level and brake fluid level.

What to Keep in Your Trunk for Winter Emergencies

A roadside emergency kit in your car trunk is essential for any driver. Having the right items in an emergency kit can help protect you and your passengers in the event of a breakdown or accident.

This is especially true in the winter. It can also be the difference between a minor inconvenience and a major problem.

We'll review what items should be included in your car trunk emergency kit so you're always ready for a potential breakdown or accident. With the right things on hand, you can help ensure that you and your passengers are safe and secure on the open road.

Car Jumper Cables

Since the winter can decrease your car's cranking power, keeping a pair of jumper cables in case your battery dies is good.

A set of cables will help you jumpstart your car or a stranger's car in case of a dead battery. Jumper cables come in a variety of lengths and gauges.

We recommend something that is 16" - 25" so that you have enough cable to cover the distance between cars.

Jumper cables are relatively inexpensive and easy to store. A decent set will cost $15 - $40. Make sure you read the instructions for safe use before you use them, and keep them away from children.

Consider a jump pack. These jump packs can help jumpstart your car if you are alone. They cost around the same as jumper cables. Because these are battery-operated, you will need to recharge them every three months since their power depletes over time.

First Aid Kit

A first aid kit is one of the most critical items you should keep in your car trunk for winter and emergencies. A first aid kit is essential for any roadside emergency, no matter how minor the injury is.

Having antiseptic and bandages will help in any situation. Even a simple scrape or splinter can cause infection if not treated properly.

In addition to basic first aid supplies like bandages and gauze, you should pack other items like antiseptic wipes and medication for pain relief. A first aid kit in your car can treat an injury quickly and avoid having it escalate into a major situation.

The cost of a first aid kit is about $20. You can create your own with a few stops at the dollar store if you are on a budget. Here is an easy video for a Dollar Tree First Aid Kit

Tire Plug Kit or Spare Tire 

Today's modern cars may have run flats. This would allow you to drive with 0 pressure. However, it is only recommended for 50 miles.

Check the tire pressure of your spare. If you have non-run flats, then having a spare tire will keep you moving in case of a flat. Better yet, you should also have a portable air pump just in case.

I have multiple tire air pumps in the trunk of the cars as a backup.

A tire pressure gauge is an excellent tool to have since tires that are overinflated or under-inflated can be a safety hazard.

Regarding the tools needed, your car should include a jack, a lug wrench, a spare tire, and a flashlight so you can see what you're doing. Check your tire kit regularly to ensure everything is in working order.

Flashlight

Every car owner should keep a flashlight in their vehicle's trunk in an emergency. Most portable flashlights are powered by AAA or AA batteries and will last for hours of continuous use.

If you have a jump pack, it typically will include a small LED that can be used as a flashlight.

LEDs are a great option as they are brighter and more energy efficient than traditional incandescent bulbs. In addition, flashlights can also be used to signal for help or search for something that may have been lost.

Blanket and Warming Packs

Since temperatures can drop, it's good practice to keep a blanket and hand warmers in your car. This will help keep you warm if you have to turn your engine and heater off.

Hand warmers can last for a few hours and are activated by oxygen. You can keep them in a bag in the trunk of your car to have them ready in any emergency.

Having an emergency car kit in your vehicle is essential for any driver.

Small items like plastic bottled water, a few snacks, a first aid kit, and jumper cables can make a big difference when you are in an emergency.

Keeping Your Gas Tank Full

My father shared an important lesson that a full gas tank helps in the winter. It will not only keep condensation to a minimum, but it will help increase the traction since there is more weight to the tires.

In addition, it's always good to have a full gas tank in case you are stranded and need to keep your engine running for the heat.

A few minutes to assemble a winterized car emergency kit could save you time and worry during the winter months.

Final Thoughts

Preparing your car for winter is integral to ensuring it is safe and reliable when the cold weather arrives.

Following the suggestions above, you can ensure that your car is ready for mother nature. Taking the time to check your vehicle and perform necessary maintenance will keep you and your loved ones safe on the road.

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Anthony Santiago - Editor-in-Chief

About the author

I am a passionate car enthusiast who likes to help people save money and avoid headaches when it comes to cars. I believe that everyone can find the right car at the right price. I share my tips and experience so you can learn quickly and maximize your next SUV, truck or car purchase.

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