Car Winterizing Tips

Once again winter is around the corner, and it is time to turn your attention to winterizing your car. This is especially important in Colorado, and as we all know, the weather can change here in a matter of minutes. But as Halloween approaches and the leaves start to fall, it can be hard to know where to start. Well not to worry, we’ve put together a list of important car winterizing tips to get your started. These tasks will not only help your car run more efficiently in the winter, they will also help with something even more important: avoiding winter accidents and the auto insurance claims that come with them.

You never know when another big snowstorm might hit Colorado. It’s best to prepare your car before winter begins so you’re ready for any type of weather.


Car Winterizing Tips

If you plan to travel or commute in the Colorado winter, there is plenty you can do to prepare your car for the ice and snow. Those who don’t feel confident handling these tasks on their own can bring their car to a licensed technician to get them done.

Check Your Car Battery

The first and most common winterizing step for your vehicle is to check the condition of the battery. The winter takes an especially harsh toll on your battery, and you don’t want it dying on you in the middle of a snowstorm or a cold night. You’ll want to check the level of water in your battery by removing the caps on the top of the battery (do this while the engine is off). If the water level is low, you’ll want to refill it to the indicated level on the battery. While the engine is off, be sure to inspect the battery cables for damage and make sure they are firmly fastened to the terminals. The final step is to test the voltage in the battery. You’ll need a battery hydrometer for this task, but they are fairly inexpensive and can be found at any auto parts store. If the voltage tests low or the battery is getting old, you should consider replacing it with a new battery.

Don’t get into your car on a snowy day just to find out that it won’t start. Check your battery and cables beforehand.


Check Your Coolant / Engine Oil

Engine coolant or antifreeze is another important aspect of your car to pay attention to before winter. Engine coolant not only prevents your engine from freezing, it also protects against corrosion. You’ll want to ensure that your coolant is properly filled in your car, and you’ll need to adjust your mixture for winter. The standard mixture in antifreeze is 50/50, which means that what you put in your engine is half antifreeze and half water. Some people will adjust their summer mixture to 25/75 and add more water to increase cooling, but for winter applications, the standard 50/50 or even adding a little more antifreeze in a 60/40 mixture is the way to go.

When checking your fluids, don’t forget to examine your engine oil. Naturally you’ll want to have the appropriate level of oil in your engine, and go ahead and get your next oil change before winter if your due. Those who live in the extreme temperatures of the mountains may also consider switching to a lighter weight oil. This will help keep your engine running in those sub-zero temperatures. Before switching to a lighter oil, be sure to refer to your owners manual or talk to your mechanic.

Think About Visibility

Visibility is extremely important in winter conditions, and a clear windshield and back window can make all the difference in arriving home safe. The easiest visibility tip has to do with your windshield wipers. If a snow storm is coming off the mountains or freezing rain is in the forecast, pop your wipers up so they won’t freeze to your windshield. While you’re at it, go ahead and replace those wipers if they are old and ineffective. On cold days where you have to clear snow or ice from your windows, make sure you thoroughly clear each window and wait for them to defrost before leaving your house. You can fill up your washer fluid with a specialized winter mix that includes a de-icer compound to aid in the task. Don’t forget to pack the scraper and snow brush in your car too.

An easy winter tip is to flip your wipers up so they don't freeze to your windshield. It also makes snow and ice cleanup easier. An easy winter tip is to flip your wipers up so they don’t freeze to your windshield. It also makes snow and ice cleanup easier.

Check Your Tires

Are your tires getting old? You’ll certainly want to check out the tread on your tires before the first snow hits. Even if they are relatively new, you can increase your winter traction by switching them out with winter specific tires. Winter tires aren’t an investment that everyone can make, but for those who have to get to work no matter what, they’ll save a lot of headache and frustration on those snowy days. Note that unless you have the equipment to change them yourself, you’ll have to get a shop to change your tires each season. If your tires are just plain old, you can consider the more universal option of all season tires as well. They aren’t as effective as winter specific tires, but they will be better than old tires.

Pack A Cold Weather Kit

One of the most important things you can do before winter is pack a cold weather kit in the trunk or back of the car. This kit will be valuable to have on hand should you get into a winter emergency. A typical kit includes:

  • Heavy Blanket – A blanket will help keep you warm if your engine dies and you have to wait for a tow.
  • Boots / Gloves – If you have to walk out or attempt to dig your car out of snow, boots will be much better than your tennis shoes. A sturdy pair of gloves is another must have, and be sure to choose something that is water resistant.
  • Flashlight W/ Emergency Signal – A good flashlight can help you diagnose problems and signal others when you need help. You can supplement your kit with emergency flares too.
  • Extra Fluids – This preparation really goes for all year long, but you should pack extra oil, antifreeze and washer fluid should you need them.
  • De-Icer – De-icer can make it easier to clear up your windshield after a snow or ice storm, but it has a more important use in opening frozen locks or doors. The catch is, you can’t access de-icer to open your frozen doors if it is inside the car, so have a plan B or alternative place to store it.
  • First Aid Kit – This is another year round item, but if you have to wait a long time for emergency services, it’s important to have a first aid kit on hand for light injuries.

A Word On Car Appearance

All the above items will help you travel safely and confidently to your destination in winter conditions. But if you want to protect the paint of your car, there are a couple other tips to keep in mind. First, applying a good coat of wax before the snows hit will help protect your paint against corrosion from the salt and chemicals common on winter streets. You’ll also want to take the opportunity to wash the salt and grime off your car when the weather warms up.

Final Thoughts

We hope you have safe winter travels wherever you’re heading this season in Colorado. From skiing trips, to Christmas tree hunting, to those wintry commutes, these tips will help keep your car in top shape. Remember that patience is just as important as maintenance in winter driving, so take your time and be safe out there.

Images one, two, and thumb courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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