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5 Winter Car Care Tips – Keep Your Car Running Smooth

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Although it’s only October, winter is not far away. And that means the cold, frigid temperatures, snow, ice, and slush aren’t far behind. In fact, some spots have already seen several inches of snow already. So dig out the ice scraper, swap to winter tires, and be sure to follow these winter car care tips to ensure your car is ready to face the winter weather.

cars in snow winter car care tips

Winter Wipers

Fog, snow, sleet, and rain all cut down on your visibility in winter. Keep your windshield clear with a good pair of windshield wipers. Most wiper blades have a lifespan of around a year, so if it’s been a while since you replaced yours, now is the time to do so. Consider getting the newer “beam blade” style wipers that do not have the external spring that often freezes up during the cold winter months.

Also, when you’ve been driving in the snow or rain, make sure you always turn off the wipers when you park so that the next time you turn on your car the wiper’s motor is not fighting to get the frozen wipers moving again. This can easily cause the motor to burn out.

Tip: if you park outside and the weather calls for snow overnight, place the wipers in the raised position to keep them from freezing to the windshield and to make it easier to scrape the windshield.

Check Engine Fluids

Next up in our winter car care tips are engine fluids. Cold weather can wreak havoc on a car’s engine. So it’s vital that you have the fluids checked, changed and topped off before winter weather arrives. This includes:

Motor Oil

In the lower temperatures of winter, motor oil thickens which makes it harder for the engine to turn over. Although you should check your owner’s manual, in general, most cars can use a multi-viscosity oil that has a “W” in the viscosity index signifying that it’s formulated for winter. Be sure to have the filter changed as well!


Your coolant mixture should be as close to a 50/50 ratio of antifreeze and water is possible in order to keep your coolant from freezing unless temperatures get well below zero. However, living in climates where it is constantly cold can call for a 60/40 or 70/30 ratio, but under no circumstances should you ever use a higher antifreeze-to-water ratio than this.

Winter Car Care – Hoses

While you have your car in the shop to prepare it for winter, have the radiator and all hoses checked for cracks or leaks. A hose that is in good shape should feel firm yet pliable when you squeeze them. If they feel brittle or overly soft, its time to have them replaced.

Winter Battery Care

When the mercury plummets your car’s battery is hit especially hard. The cold temperatures reduce its cranking power, sometimes as much as by half. To avoid being stranded, make sure to have your battery’s charge checked. You can have this professionally done at the car dealership or a repair shop. There are also some auto parts stores that will do it, too.

If you opt to do it yourself, see your owner’s manual. For most conventional batteries you simply remove the plastic caps on the top and check the fluid level. If it’s low, add distilled water. If you have a maintenance-free battery, check that the window at the top of the battery shows a full charge.

Lastly, if your battery is more than five years old and is showing signs of weakness, go ahead and replace it before it goes dead.

Winter Car Care Tips – Tires

Your tires play a vital role in your safety. Make sure each tire, including the spare, have plenty of air. Remember, tires lose a pound of pressure for every drop of 10 degrees Fahrenheit. An underinflated tire will not “bite” through the snow down to the pavement as well as one that is at the correct pressure.

If your tread is low and you’ve been waiting to pick up a new set of tires, don’t delay especially since winter-grade tires tend to be in short supply once the snow begins to fall. If you live in an area that gets occasional snow, a new set of all-season tires should be just fine. But if you live where snow and ice are ever-present, dedicated winter tires are your best choice as they are specially designed for driving on snow, sleet, ice, and dry, cold pavement.

One more tip: perhaps you’ve heard the advice to let the air out of your tires in order to get more contact surface area when driving in snow. This only applies only if the surface is bottomlessly soft, like a foot-deep, unplowed snow — not the mix of cleared road, ice and packed snow most of us encounter in daily driving.

Pack a Car Emergency Kit

Regardless of whether you live where it rarely snows or where it snows constantly, everyone should have a car emergency kit. These kits can include a variety of items, and how much you put in it is up to you, but here are some of the recommended basics:

  • a space blanket and/or extra heavy coat. While you may be tempted to put in a regular blanket, a space blanket has the ability to keep you warmer, and it takes up very little space.
  • a flashlight with a set of spare batteries
  • candles and a lighter, or matches
  • flares
  • a whistle
  • some type of multi-use tool
  • some even suggest keeping a plastic bag for gathering snow for water, as well as an empty soup can to melt the snow in using the lighter.
  • non-perishable food and/or snacks
  • a spare charger for your cell phone
  • a small first aid kit

Winter Car Care Tips – Final Thoughts

Being prepared for winter includes preparing yourself, your home, and your car. By following the above tips, your car will be prepared for pretty much anything winter can throw at it!

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