Winterizing your Vehicle: Prepping for the Weather Ahead

by Gwen Newell
car driving in winter weather

As we could be heading into what will likely be a very cold winter, now is an ideal time to complete a seasonal vehicle check-up ahead of the foreseeable freezing temperatures. With a December cold front approaching soon, tailoring your vehicle maintenance to the colder temperatures and icy weather will help keep your vehicles running smoothly into the winter driving season and beyond.

Some areas to focus on when taking your vehicle for maintenance are listed below, followed by tips that cater specifically to that component.

  • Heating System. A system that is operating marginally will most likely fail in colder weather. Have a technician examine your system if you feel it isn’t running at full power.
  • Cooling System. Just like we need to stay cool in the heat, so does your vehicle’s engine. The cooling system should be flushed and refilled about every 24 months. The coolant should be checked periodically as well.
  • Oil. Change your oil and oil filter as specified in your vehicle’s manual, and more often if you make frequent short trips or extended trips with a car full of luggage.
  • Engine Performance. Replace other filters (air, fuel, PCV, etc.) as recommended and more frequently in dusty conditions.
  • Windshield Wipers. A dirty windshield causes eye fatigue and can pose a safety hazard. Replace worn wiper blades and make sure you have plenty of windshield washer solvent.
  • Lights. Inspect all lights and bulbs; replace burned out bulbs and periodically clean dirt and insects from all lenses.
  • Tires. Have your tires rotated about every 5,000 miles. Check the tire pressure once a month when the tires are cold to get a true reading. Also check tread depth. Current state regulations usually recommend tire replacement at 2/32” depth, but in the interest of safety, AAA recommends replacement of 4/32” depth, since by that time, stopping performance is already decreasing. See this video on tread depth to show how stopping distance is affected by tread. Don’t forget to also check your spare tire so that it is ready in the case of an emergency.
  • Brakes. Brakes should be inspected as recommended in your manual, or sooner if you notice pulsations, grabbing, noises or longer stopping distance.
  • Battery. Batteries can fail any time of the year. The correct way to detect a weak battery is with professional equipment. Routine care can help make your battery last longer. Scrape away corrosion from posts and cable connections, clean all surfaces, and re-tighten all connections.

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