How to Winterize Your Car: The Official Checklist

winterized car driving in snow

Have you given your car the tender, loving care it needs to survive the ravages of winter? Following our checklist can help ensure it’s prepared to take on the cold. Here are the 11 parts of your car you should winterize to prepare yourself for the cold.

11 Ways to Winterize Your Car

1. Antifreeze and Cooling System

  • Before temperatures drop significantly, drain your cooling system and add new antifreeze (draining the car radiator and refilling it with new coolant should be done at least once a year)
  • Check the owner’s manual for the proper coolant level
  • Make sure the reserve tank or overflow tank fluid levels are sufficient

2. Tires

  • Check tires weekly for proper tread and air pressure (you’ll find the recommended tire pressure inside the driver’s side door, doorframe or in the owner’s manual)
  • Replace worn tires
  • All-weather tires are generally adequate for winter, but some areas require vehicles to have chains or snow tires with studs, so make sure to check local laws
  • If you live in an area prone to snow and ice, consider winter tires, which are designed to better grip icy pavement

3. Windshield Wipers

  • Replace worn windshield wipers, since sand and salt will be more prevalent after a snowstorm
  • Replace wiper fluid with a winter mixture and maintain the proper fluid level
  • Consider winter wiper blades to help cut through snow and ice

4. Brakes

  • Check brake fluid levels and brake pads for wear and tear
  • Replace worn pads and rotors

5. Battery

  • Make sure battery cables and terminals are secure and free from corrosion
  • Test your battery by turning on the headlights before starting the engine – if they get brighter once you start the engine, schedule an appointment with a mechanic for further electrical inspection
  • If your battery is more than 3 years old, have it inspected by a mechanic

6. Heater and Defroster

  • Turn your heater and defroster on and off to make sure they are working correctly

7. Lights

  • Make sure all lights are clean and working properly
  • Clean lights off prior to driving in any type of precipitation
  • Replace foggy, hazy or damaged lens covers to improve visibility

8. Oil

  • Change the oil and filter at recommended intervals
  • Heavier oils thicken at lower temperatures and may not lubricate as well, so consider switching to “winter weight” or less viscous oil

9. Exhaust System

  • Replace or repair leaks and crimped pipes to help keep carbon monoxide out of the passenger compartment

10. Fuel and Air Filters

  • Replace and keep water out of the system by using additives
  • To keep moisture in the gas line from freezing and for easier cold-weather starts, keep at least a half tank of gas in the tank

11. Clean

  • Prevent road salt from damaging your car’s paint by washing your vehicle periodically
  • Apply a fresh coat of wax to avoid corrosion
  • For better visibility, clear snow and ice from your car’s hood, roof, head and taillights before driving
  • Consider winter floor mats to protect your car’s carpeting

Along with these maintenance tips, make sure your vehicle has a winter emergency kit and the right auto insurance coverage before you hit the road this winter.

 

Any of the recommendations should only be done if consistent with the owner’s manual.