December 10th, 2023

winterize car adviceELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times


The temperatures are plunging everywhere, and one of the items that could be especially affected is the family car. 

With that in mind, there are some things that can be done to prepare the car for the rest of winter.

“Prepping your car – inside and out – for winter weather is the best way to make sure your travels are stress-free,” Carmax noted. “No matter what the season, it's always nice to have a clean, shiny car. This is even more important in the colder months. Rain, snow, and road salt can do a number on your vehicle's paint. They can even build up in certain areas and lead to rust. How you clean off road grime and natural buildup is up to you, but the important thing is to make sure it gets done. An automatic car wash will remove the bulk of the gunk that keeps your vehicle from shining its brightest. Deluxe packages will even focus some of their cleaning power on your undercarriage, wheels, and tires. If you choose to wash your vehicle yourself, be sure to use a dedicated car wash soap (dish soap is too harsh) and two buckets. Put grit guards at the bottom of both buckets so you don't grind dirt or sand into your car's finish. Fill one bucket with soap and water, and fill the other with only water. Dip a scratch-free microfiber wash mitt into the first bucket and start washing. Pay particular attention to your headlights. They can't perform their vital job to the best of their ability if they're clouded over. Consider getting a headlight restoration kit and putting in a little elbow grease to remove unsightly haze.”

Also important, Carmax noted, is making sure the windshield wipers are in good condition. 

“It's essential to keep your windshield clean. After all, how are you going to get to your in-laws' house for homemade pie and board games if you can't see 10 feet down the road?” Carmax noted. “One of the easiest ways to keep your outward visibility crystal clear is to toss out your old wipers for a fresh pair that won't make unpleasant noises or leave streaks on your windshield. You can even get wipers tailored to the kind of weather you expect to drive through. Anticipating a lot of snow during your travels? Opt for a pair of wipers with their own heating elements. They'll be a great addition to a vehicle with a heated windshield and/or heated mirrors. Just know that they require a little installation work. If heavy rain is in the forecast, choose wipers treated with a hydrophobic agent. After they swipe across your clean windshield a few times, they leave a coating that will bead up water on contact, making your new wipers twice as effective against downpours.”

A good and thorough overall inspection of a vehicle is also extremely important, according to Bridgestone.

“Before you hit any harsh winter conditions, have your vehicle serviced to prepare it for the challenges winter can pose,” Bridgestone noted. “Battery power decreases as the temperature drops, meaning that it takes more power to start your car in the winter. If your battery is already having problems, your risk of breaking down increases. It is recommended that your auto care provider installs a battery at or above 600 CCA for optimal winter performance. It is also recommended to maintain a ratio between 50/50 and 70/30 of antifreeze to water. Ask your technician what antifreeze should be used for your vehicle and the appropriate coolant-to-water ratio to prevent against corrosion and potential freezing. Also, while cold weather doesn’t necessarily hurt your brakes, a thorough inspection can ensure the best performance when driving in winter conditions. Finally, belts, hoses, spark plugs, wires and cables can go bad at any time of year, but if they go bad during the winter, you could be stranded in a very cold place for a very long time.”

Bridgestone also recommends switching to winter tires and making sure those are also maintained.

“It’s possible to use all-season tires in winter conditions however, this won’t offer you the maximum performance you may need in your environment,” Bridgestone noted. “If you live in a place that experiences extremely cold winter temperatures, it is recommended that you install winter tires when winterizing your car. When the temperature consistently hovers around or below freezing, the rubber compounds in non-winter tires harden, decreasing the tire’s ability to grip the road. Winter tires use special compounds engineered to resist hardening in cold temperatures, providing better traction in ice, snow, slush, and even dry pavement. If you live in an area that doesn’t normally have intense winters, all-season tires should be acceptable. However, if you live somewhere with harsh winters or regularly visit places that do, winter tires are the safest choice for you. Every 10° change in ambient temperature could mean a gain or loss of 1 PSI. This means you should check pressure more regularly during winter and refill your tires as needed. Appropriate pressure for your tires can be found on the tire placard in the driver’s side door jamb or in your vehicle owner’s manual.”

One of the major items people should keep in winter, Carmax noted, is an emergency kit. 

“Sometimes, no matter how much you prepare, something goes wrong that's beyond your control and leaves you stranded. You can make that unpleasant situation a little more bearable with a strategically packed emergency kit,” Carmax noted. “Before you set out for that big family get-together, be sure you have the following gear on board: jumper cables, tire pressure gauge, tire inflator, tire patch kit, ice scraper and brus, gloves, blankets, drinking water and snacks, flashlight, triangle reflector kit, road flares, first aid kit, cell phone, and phone charger. If you have the room, it doesn't hurt to bring some kitty litter or even traction pads to give your tires a little extra grip over slick terrain, especially if you plan on going off-road in an all-wheel or four-wheel-drive vehicle.”