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  3. Auto 101: How to Care For Your Car In Winter

Jeffrey N. Ross | Jan 21, 2021

 

Exterior view of a Toyota pickup truck in the snow

Preventative maintenance is always important for keeping a vehicle safely on the road, but when driving in harsh, winter conditions, you're going to want to take extra precautions to make sure your car is properly cared for. Here are the top five winter car care tips to keep you and your car safe.


Tires

The most important car care item is the one part of your car that actually touches the ground, your tires! At the bare minimum, you'll want to make sure that your tires have sufficient tread depth, are properly inflated and aren't damaged or dry rotted.

If you live in an area with extreme winter weather such as snow and ice, then you might want to look into equipping your car with specialty tires. Swapping a set of snow tires onto your car will really help to improve your traction, and keeping a set of snow chains handy will give you the best chance of not getting stuck or sliding off the road.


Keep Your Windshield Clean

As a driver, you always want to maintain good visibility of the road, but this can be a challenge when driving through heavy snow. For this, make sure that your wiper blades are in good condition, and in the winter months, it doesn't hurt to spend a little extra on higher quality blades.

To complement the wiper blades, be sure that your windshield wiper fluid is filled up, and you're using a fluid that is rated for freezing weather conditions. Don't run straight water in your wiper fluid reservoir, or it will freeze and cause damage to the reservoir and/or fluid pump. If you're going to be parked outside heavy snow/ice is expected, you can fold the wiper arms up to prevent them from being frozen in place.

Not only does this help prolong the life of your wiper blades, it also makes it easier to clear the windshield with an ice scraper.


Battery Care

The colder the weather, the harder it is for your battery to crank your engine over. Before being stranded in a parking lot with a car that won't start, you should have your battery tested to make sure it's ready for the winter. This is something that most auto parts stores will do for free.

While doing this, also check the condition of your battery cables and terminals as corroded cables and excess build-up can affect your battery's performance. Along with an ice scraper, it wouldn't hurt to carry jumper cables in your trunk just in case.


Wash Your Car Regularly

Before winter sets in, raise your hood and be sure the cowl (the area at the base of the windshield) is clear of leaves or any other debris, and do the same for your radiator and grille to ensure optimal cooling for your engine and heating for your interior.

Nobody wants to wash their car in the winter time, but this is a must even for garage-parked cars to prevent salt buildup from affecting your paint and starting rust. Pro tip: don't forget undercarriage washes, too. Throughout the winter season, clear the ice that gets accumulated around the wheel openings, and also be sure to keep your headlights and taillights cleaned off. And it wouldn't hurt to wipe off your license plate to limit your chances of being pulled over by the police for an obstructed plate.


Keep Your Fluids Topped Off

Your windshield washer reservoir isn't the only fluid you'll want to keep an eye on. To give your car peak performance during the harsh winter weather, ensure that all of the vital fluids are fresh and topped off. It wouldn't hurt to get an oil change and maintenance check before the temperatures really start to drop. But you'll definitely want to make sure that the engine oil, transmission fluid, brake fluid and coolant levels are all within manufacturer specs.

It's especially important that your coolant is flushed and topped off as this is what brings heat to the inside of your car. Finally, be sure your fuel tank is topped off as often as possible just in case you do end up stuck somewhere.


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