When it comes to wintertime, preparation is key. You’ve got to wear warm clothes, drink your orange juice, wash your hands diligently, cover your mouth when you sneeze, and eat extra leafy greens to stay healthy. Similarly, if you want your vehicle to stay healthy during the long months of sub-freezing temperatures, you need to take certain preventative measures.

Car Preparation Guide for Winter

(Pixabay / byymee)

The Outside

Wash and Wax – Starting with the outside and working your way in is always a good idea. Begin by giving your car a top-notch wash and wax. Road salt is notoriously hard on paint jobs, so getting all of autumn’s grime off your car before the cold weather hits is a must. Seal off your paint using a synthetic wax to prevent corrosion.

The Windshield – Check your windshield for any small chips or dings and get them repaired before the temperature drops. The combination of moisture and fluctuating temperatures can make tiny chips explode into large cracks in no time, so it’s best to catch them early. Also, double-check your windshield wipers for any nicks or tears and top off your wiper fluid. Use a pin to clear out any ice or wax build-up that is clogging up the wiper fluid nozzle, and be sure to keep extra wiper fluid in your trunk.

Lights – Walk around your vehicle and double check that all of your lights are working correctly and that your headlight covers are clear. There are several different DIY options out there to help you clean cloudy headlights, so you don’t have to spend money to replace them if you’re willing to devote a little time and elbow grease to the project.

The Inside

Emergency Supplies – If you get stuck on the road during inclement weather and aren’t prepared, things can take a downward turn quickly. Cold weather brings out the worst in vehicles (and, dare I say, people), so pack an emergency bag in your truck to help alleviate some of the trouble that can arise from an untimely breakdown. Some things you should pack include:

  • Granola bars or other shelf-stable snacks
  • Water
  • Gloves and extra clothing (especially socks and an extra pair of shoes or boots)
  • Blankets
  • Flashlight and batteries
  • Road flares
  • Jumper cables
  • Cigarette-lighter phone charger
  • Ice scraper
  • Rock salt/sand/kitty litter
  • First aid kit
  • Small shovel
  • Chain
  • Small tool kit
  • Items to entertain kids as necessary

Floor mats – Floor mats are one of those things you might not think about, but they can save the inside of your car from a lot of wear and tear during the winter months. Your shoes and clothes can track in a lot of mud, salt, sand, and snow, and removable floor mats are a lot easier to clean than the standard flooring that comes in most vehicles.

The Engine

Battery – At the start of winter, take a moment to clean off any corrosion you find on your vehicle’s battery. Use a mixture of baking soda and water to loosen up the corrosion and then use a stiff brush to sweep it away. It’s also a good idea to keep jumper cables in your car at all times.

Fuel – Obviously, you can’t keep extra fuel in the back of your car, but you can make a personal goal to keep your fuel level at or above a quarter tank at all times. This will enable you to get where you’re going safely in an emergency situation.

Antifreeze – Make sure that the antifreeze ratio of 50% water to 50% antifreeze stays true during the winter. There are DIY test kits available at most auto repair stores, or you can stop by a shop and have a mechanic check it for you.

The Underside

Tires – Your tire health is crucial to keeping you safe during winter driving, so make sure to make it a high priority. Studies show that tire pressure decreases one PSI per 10-degree drop in temperature, so if your weather fluctuates during the day, you could be in for some trouble. Keep a cigarette lighter-powered tire pressure pump in your trunk during the winter months to help you combat this problem.

It’s also a good idea to prepare for Utah’s winter by installing snow tires on your vehicle.

Brakes – Double check your brakes at the start of the winter season so that everything is in working order. Replace your pads and rotors as necessary so that you can stop safely in the slickest conditions.

Mechanic’s Tune-Up

It’s always a good idea to head over to your mechanic for a seasonal tune-up as winter approaches. They’ll be able to check on your antifreeze ratios, thermostat, heater, and defroster, and they can recommend any other services you may need to stay safe on the road. Have them give you an oil change and rotate your tires while they’re at it, so you’re road-ready.

Mental Prep

Lastly, but also most importantly, you need to prepare yourself for driving during wet, icy, or snowy conditions. The first thing to remember is to SLOW DOWN and allow plenty of distance between you and the car in front of you. If you feel unsafe, pull over and wait for weather conditions to improve. No matter how good of a driver you are, there is always room to be more cautious during the winter months.