Should I Winterize My Car? What is Involved?

Closeup of car tires in winter on the road


If you’re living in a colder climate such as Connecticut or New England that has snowy, frigid winters then you’ve most likely heard the term “winterizing your vehicle”. But what does that mean and what is involved in winterizing your vehicle?

Here is a list of things that you should consider having done to your vehicle before winter hits:

  • Check your Battery: Frigid temperatures are tough on your vehicle’s battery. At 5 – 10 degrees a fully charged battery has only half its rated amp-hour capacity. Couple that with during cold weather, your engine requires more current from the battery in order to get the engine started. So, you have a battery giving less power output with an engine requiring more power to start so having a healthy battery is crucial. You should have your local dealership run a battery load test to see if you need to replace the battery and to clean any corrosion on the battery at contact points.
  • Snow Tires: If you live in an area that gets a lot of snow in the winter you may want to consider investing in a set of snow tires. Snow tires are made of a soft rubber meaning they have greater flexibility in the frigid cold. Snow tires also have special tread patterns designed to grip into snow and ice.
  • Wiper Blades: If your wipers are leaving streaks on the windshield, or if the wiper-blade rubber shows any signs of cracking or stiffness, replace them with a new set. You may want to invest in a set of winter blades as they have a rubber sheath that goes over the blade preventing ice build up. Always be sure to use a brush and a scraper to remove ice and snow from the windshield rather than your wipers; a heavy load of snow can overload the wiper motor and cause it to burn out. If the vehicle is parked outside, lift the wipers off the glass before an overnight snow to keep them from freezing to the windshield.
  • Replace the Cabin Air Filter: Cabin air filters are one of the most neglected maintenance items on late model cars and trucks. A clogged cabin air filter can dramatically reduce airflow through your car’s heater, stressing the blower motor and overheating the blower motor resistor.
  • Tire Pressure: Tire pressure is important during the winter because traction can be a challenge due to wet or snowy conditions. Having the proper tire pressure will insure the best possible contact between the tire and the road. Anyone that has a vehicle with a tire pressure monitoring system knows that light comes on in lower temperatures. The reason for this is because the cooler air contracts, and the air pressure in your tires can drop. That is why I advise you check for proper inflation as fall turns to winter, and then continue to check periodically throughout the season. Proper inflation also saves money because it minimizes tire wear.
  • Belts and Hoses: Inspect or have inspected your belts and hoses to make sure there are no leaks or cracks before the cold weather sets in. Cold temps can weaken the belts and hoses that help make your engine run.
  • Make a Winter Emergency Kit: Nobody plans to get stranded but if you do, you’ll be glad you have it. Your emergency kit should include an inexpensive tire inflator that plugs into your power port. Next, add a warm winter cap, gloves, a blanket , a fold-up shovel, an LED flashlight fitted with lithium batteries (alkaline batteries freeze in winter), jumper cables, an extra car cell phone charger, a notepad and pencil, and extra bottle of motor oil.

While we all hope for a mild winter, it is always better to be prepared because Mother Nature may have different plans.

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