How to Prepare Your Car for the Winter

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Checking a car’s oil | iStock

How to Prepare Your Car for the Winter

Winter isِ coming, andِ no, thisِ hasِ nothing toِ doِ with Game ofِ Thrones.
Some people mayِ associate theِ season withِ ski bunnies, white Christmases, andِ pastoral country landscapes.
If yourِ car doesn’t haveِ rust goingِ into theِ season, chances areِ it willِ whenِ it’s allِ over.

1. Time for a fluid flush

Whether you’re a shade tree mechanic orِ a regular atِ your local Jiffy Lube, theِ winter isِ the time toِ makeِ sure yourِ car hasِ fresh fluids.
When youِ change yourِ oil, goِ forِ something withِ a lowerِ viscosity rating.
theِ “W” stands forِ winter, whichِ means thatِ the oil willِ start toِ thicken belowِ 5 degrees Celsius.

Check to make sure your car’s belts and hoses are ready for winter weather. | iStock/Getty Images

2. Start thinking about belts and hoses

In today’s cars, plastic cladding hides justِ aboutِ every part ofِ your engine bay.
But thatِ doesn’t meanِ that rubber belts andِ hoses aren’t stillِ inِ there.
Going fromِ very hot (think 175 orِ so degrees) toِ sub-freezing air temperature hundreds ofِ times a season wreaks havoc onِ your car’s rubber components.

3. Make sure your battery is up for the extra work

Starting yourِ car onِ a freezing morning puts a lot ofِ strain onِ your car’s electrical system.
If yourِ battery isِ over threeِ years old, there’s a real chance itِ simply won’t beِ up forِ it anymore.
If it’s old, considerِ buying a newِ one beforeِ the temperature reallyِ starts toِ dip.

4. Winter tires are a must

A Braille carbon fiber car battery waits to be swapped into a custom vehicle | Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Yes, front-wheel drive cars tend toِ doِ betterِ in theِ snow thanِ rear-wheel drive cars.
But thatِ doesn’t reallyِ matter withoutِ a good set ofِ snow tires.
In theِ worst winter weather, a good set ofِ all-seasons justِ won’t cut it.

5. Stock up on windshield wiper fluid and extra wipers

In warmer months, windshield wiper fluid canِ take upِ space inِ your garage orِ trunk, butِ in theِ winter, you’ll beِ glad youِ haveِ it.
It’s amazing howِ quickly people inِ colder climates run throughِ theِ stuff.
And whileِ it’s cheap, running outِ ofِ itِ when youِ reallyِ needِ itِ isِ atِ best annoying, andِ at worst, dangerous.

6. Become a regular at your local car wash

Time to replace wipers | Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

This mayِ seem likeِ a futile exercise orِ evenِ a waste ofِ money, butِ regularly washing yourِ car duringِ the winter months couldِ add years toِ itsِ life.
Salt corrodes metal, andِ the longer it’s onِ your car, theِ faster it’s goingِ to rust.
Paying a littleِ extra forِ wax isِ a mustِ too.

7. Keep an emergency kit

Let’s sayِ the worst case scenario happens: You’re driving along, hit a patch ofِ ice, andِ next thingِ you know, you’re offِ the road.
Even ifِ you’re onِ a busy highway, ifِ the weather isِ bad enough, youِ mightِ beِ waiting anِ hour orِ two forِ a tow.
So makeِ sure youِ haveِ anِ emergency kit inِ your car.

8. Invest in roadside assistance

Heading to the car wash in the winter can add years to your car’s life. | Source: Mr. Clean Car Wash via Facebook

It’s simple math: A top ofِ the line AAA Premier membership costs $118 and includes 500 miles ofِ towing a year.
If you’re notِ keen onِ AAA, thereِ areِ usually roadside assistance options availableِ through yourِ insurer orِ evenِ your car’s manufacturer.
No matter whereِ you getِ it, it’s alwaysِ a good idea toِ haveِ this supplemental insurance forِ when thingsِ getِ bad outِ there.

9. Stash de-icer around

Some cars areِ notorious forِ having theirِ locks orِ door handles freeze whenِ it’s cold andِ wet out.
Don’t letِ yourself getِ stranded; buy a fewِ tubes ofِ lock de-icer andِ keep themِ atِ home andِ work.
Because there’s nothingِ worse atِ the endِ of a long workday thanِ notِ beingِ able toِ getِ into yourِ car andِ go home.

10. Stay in the know

It mayِ sound corny andِ make youِ feel likeِ you’re becomingِ your dad, butِ winter isِ the time toِ keepِ anِ eye onِ your car’s vitals.
When you’re filling up, pop theِ hood andِ check oil andِ coolant levels.
If youِ canِ reach them, check theِ hoses andِ belts underِ theِ hood.