In 2016, a family of three was stranded in the snow on Christmas Eve in the Grand Canyon. After the mother and father walked for a combined 45 miles looking for help, they finally reached someone by phone.
Getting lost in the snow is scary. This family is lucky to be alive. Unfortunately, they had to suffer through this experience due to a misguided GPS and a vehicle that was unequipped for the weather.
Even if you have four-wheel drive and a brand-new pair of winter tires, you still could run into trouble if you haven’t fully prepared your vehicle for winter. This is why it’s so important to winterize your car before the freezing temperatures hit.
Whether you live in colder climates or are traveling for the holidays, winterizing your car will ensure you’re prepared, no matter what type of weather you experience. Read about these ten ways to winterize your vehicle to get started.
Is It Necessary to Winterize a Car?
Unless you live in the warmest parts of Florida, it is absolutely necessary to winterize your car. Even if you live in an area that rarely sees snow, it’s still important to take some precautions just in case you run into frigid temperatures, winds, or simply bad weather.
Additionally, traveling across the U.S. to visit friends and relatives could take you through icy or snowy regions occasionally.
In fact, over 70% of roads in the US are in snowy regions, which directly correlates to the percentage of people who live in snowy regions. That means you have a reasonable chance of driving through dangerous roads in inclement weather at some point in the winter.
When so many Americans live in unsafe conditions for almost six months out of the year, winter accidents are inevitable. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that 17% of all crashes occur during the winter months.
Whether or not you winterize your car can be the difference between a safe journey and a harrowing experience that leaves you or others injured.
Not only does winterizing your car protect you and your family, but it protects your vehicle, too. When you winterize your car, you protect the undercarriage and your tires. These are the first parts of your car to experience damage if nothing is done to protect them.
Using the below methods to prepare your car may require some time and effort. But being prepared enables you to drive with peace of mind.
10 Ways to Winterize Your Car
Winterizing your vehicle is necessary for staying safe in the cold. Not having something as simple as an ice scraper or extra water can make your journey extremely difficult, even dangerous, in frigid temperatures.
Whether or not you experience snow and ice doesn’t matter. Cooler temperatures affect your vehicle just as much as snow and ice.
Likewise, the salt on the roads, while excellent for melting ice, takes a toll on your car’s undercarriage and paint. Prepping your vehicle for the winter months will extend its life and prevent the salt from corroding parts of your car.
#1: Use Winter Tires
Tires make all the difference when you drive in adverse conditions. Besides making sure your tires have enough tread, you should use special winter tires to improve your stability and control behind the wheel.
Winter tires differ from all-purpose and performance tires because they contain extra rubber, which increases flexibility and traction. Also, snow tires have a different tread pattern on them to grip the road.
Whereas all-season tires have smaller gaps between the lugs (tread blocks), snow tires have wider gaps. This extra space lets snow, ice, and water fill the gaps while allowing the tread to maintain contact with the road.
#2: Wash Your Car Regularly
Washing your car does more than restore that “just like new” shine. Regular washes keep damaging oils and moisture from harming the undercarriage of your car. It also prevents the paint from chipping.
Additionally, frequent washings can rid your car of the corrosive effect of road salt. Since it’s hygroscopic, it sucks the moisture out of surfaces but it also absorbs moisture in the air. As it continues to do this, salt creates oxidation, which eventually leads to rust on your car.
This significantly affects your brake lines and exhaust. With enough prolonged exposure, your vehicle could become unsafe to drive.
#3: Replace Your Wiper Blades
Good wiper blades are essential for safe driving. A lot of people focus on tires, and it’s true, excellent tire traction is a must. But you will have a hard time driving if you cannot see where you are going.
Whether there is freezing rain or snow, a clean windshield is vital for safe winter driving. Unless you know you recently changed your windshield wipers, it would be a wise decision to change to winter wiper blades in September or October.
Changing to winter wiper blades in the fall gives you about four to six months of safe use before they need to be changed again. With good wiper blades, you will be secure in all conditions regardless of the type of precipitation.
#4: Check the Tire Pressure
Tire pressure is how much air is in a tire in pounds per square inch (PSI). This simple calculation is the difference between a lousy tire and a perfect tire.
One of the trickiest components of air pressure is adjusting for the outdoor temperature. Air expands in hot weather and condenses in cooler weather.
Therefore, as the weather begins to cool down, your tires may seem to deflate, and your tire check signal may come on in your car. They are not deflating necessarily, but the air is condensing enough to lower the pressure.
To prevent major issues and popped tires, inflate your tires to the recommended cold air pressure. You can find this number in the driver-side door frame and the owner’s manual. You must check your tire pressure periodically throughout the winter, especially after a string of significantly colder days.
#5: Check Your Coolant and Antifreeze
Coolant and antifreeze are excellent chemicals that help your engine run in extreme conditions. As the temperature drops, antifreeze helps your engine regulate its temperature so that it does not freeze through. In other words, antifreeze maintains a consistent, safe temperature for your engine.
Without antifreeze, you risk a frozen engine, which can cause dozens of other issues. Especially if you expose your car to the elements, you should keep a close eye on your antifreeze levels.
#6: Monitor Your Car Battery
Car batteries seem to go out at the most inconvenient times. However, they never go out randomly. Pay attention when you start your car. Does it take a little longer for the engine to turn over? If so, your car’s battery is starting to go out.
When this happens, you should go to your nearest car battery sales store and have them check the strength of your battery. You may need to replace it immediately. Or you might be able to get a few more weeks out of it.
The worst thing to do is to ignore your battery. Freezing temperatures can kill your battery.
Since the fluids in your vehicle thicken due to the winter weather, the battery must use more energy to get the engine started and turn on the equipment. Therefore, the battery can die more quickly.
The last thing you want is to be stuck in the middle of a parking lot or out somewhere late at night with a vehicle that won’t start in freezing temperatures.
#6: Check Your Heater and Defroster
Heaters and defrosters are necessities in cold weather. Not only do they keep you warm, but they help the car run efficiently and keep you safe. A warm car means the engine is running smoothly and can adequately maintain its temperature.
The heater helps defrost your windows to melt ice and snow. The defroster is critical in the winter months. Without a working defroster, your car will struggle to get on the road, and you will not be able to see. Defrosters help balance the temperature of the windshield and melt the ice that freezes on the glass.
If your heater and defroster do not work, you will have to scrape ice off the windshield by hand, which can lead to scratches on the glass. Also, in cold temperatures, you lose some of your ability for smooth motions and balance. Therefore, the longer you are outside cleaning your car, the higher the risk of injuring yourself.
#7: Keep the Gas Tank at Least Half Full at All Times
If you live in a perpetually cold climate, you should pay attention to your gas tank. After days and weeks of temperatures below freezing, your gas lines can freeze through. These lines will freeze when there is no gasoline in them.
If you keep your gas tank at least half full, you guarantee working gas lines. Why? If you have enough empty space, condensation can introduce water into your gas tank. This moisture can freeze and cause problems. Therefore, you can prevent frozen gas lines by keeping gasoline in your tank.
Having gas in the tank also helps your car start a lot quicker and heat up faster. Another reason you want to maintain at least a half-full gas tank is that the risk of accidents and traffic increases during the winter months. More traffic means you could be sitting on the road for extended periods.
You need gas in your engine to sit while you idle. While newer vehicles can run on their battery when idling, older cars do not have this capability. One of the worst things that could happen is to run out of gas while sitting in traffic. Maintaining a half-full tank will give you peace of mind that this won’t happen.
#8: Regularly Check the Engine Oil
Regularly checking your engine oil is an oft-overlooked winterization method. Engine oil does not freeze until -10℉. However, it is well-documented that once temperatures are below 50℉, oil thickens.
When oil thickens, it has difficulty flowing through the engine and lubricating the pistons and other engine components. If oil cannot flow through the engine, the engine will overheat.
You want to pay attention to your engine temperature throughout the winter and allow your car proper time to heat up before driving. The longer your vehicle runs, the looser the engine oil will get.
The best way to go about checking and changing your engine oil is to speak with a technician at your tire and lube center the next time you get an oil change. They will change your oil to a cold-weather oil that still meets vehicle requirements and prevents thickening in the cold.
#9: Keep an Emergency Kit in the Car
An emergency kit is an essential piece of cargo to have in your vehicle. Like a first aid kit, the emergency kit will address any minor issues you might face while driving.
A good emergency kit includes:
- Jumper cables
- Tire inflator
- Warm hat
- Work gloves
- Tire pressure gauge
- Extra batteries
- Pencil and pad
- Extra motor oil
- Extra antifreeze
- Gallon of water
Each of these items will help you address several potential issues you might face. Even though you are driving in the winter, your engine can still overheat if your radiator is not properly functioning. A gallon of water will lower the temperature of the radiator and engine.
Similarly, you never know what time of day you will need to pull over and fix a flat tire. Having extra warm clothing and a flashlight will help you complete the job.
The cold weather often inhibits older cars from starting. Therefore, jumper cables are a necessity. As long as there is a second vehicle nearby, you can jump in your car and get home. If this happens during the day, immediately go to a licensed car battery dealer. They will test your battery and change it for you.
That’s all you need for a solid winter weather kit. All of these items are useful year-round, so you can keep the same kit all year to stay safer on the road.
A lot of work goes into winterizing your vehicle, especially if you own multiple vehicles. The great thing about your purchases is that several components can last years between replacements.
Once you buy jumper cables, you don’t need to replace them for a long time. You can change your tires between seasons to save tread and money. In other words, vehicle winterization is an intelligent move.
At Guardian Auto Transport, we know that winter is a busy time for travel. Winter also has some of the most dangerous weather. Whether moving homes or transporting different vehicles, let our experts help you navigate this winter. We can safely transport your vehicle, so you don’t have to worry about a thing.