How to Prepare Your Car for Winter

Last updated on March 18th, 2017 at 08:04 am

Learning how to prepare your car for winter is a must. You don’t want to be stuck walking in the cold do you? Neither do I.

That’s why I made this guide.

It’s simple to follow.

You don’t need to be a mechanic or have a ton of tools (Just the basics).

Never used a wrench before? It’s easy. I promise.

Now let’s get down to it.

Why It’s Important to Have Your Car Winter Ready

The cold weather is hard on your car. If you’re car is not ready for the weather then it is more likely to fail.

Here’s how cold weather can effect a car:

  1. Engine Coolant: If the coolant freezes it can crack the engine block.
  2. Car Battery: Cold temperatures are bad news for batteries. Too cold and they can fail.
  3. Hard Starting: Your car should have a block heater. The block heater warms the engine block and oil. Without it the car will be hard to start.

Here’s What You Can Check to Winterize The Car

Preparing Your Car for Winter Checklist

You can find a winter car checklist to get your car winter ready.

Test Your Car Battery

Check your car battery for winter weather
Battery testers are cheap and easy to use

The battery in your car plays an important role. It provides power to the cars starting system.

Without a functioning battery your car won’t start.

Fortunately there is an easy way to test your car battery.

How?

With a battery tester.

Battery testers aren’t that expensive. You can find one for under $10 on amazon.com

Most battery testers are simple to use. Just connect the clips to the negative (-) and positive (+) terminals. The tester will then show the condition of the car battery.

Car battery testers are a good investment for any garage.

Can’t afford a battery tester?

Phone your local repair shops. They might just test your battery for free.

Get car ready for winter
Don’t get stuck by the side of the road in winter!

Make Sure Your Antifreeze Is Up To Par

Test the car antifreeze for winter
Check your antifreeze

The coolant/antifreeze is designed to do two things:

  1. Keep the engine from overheating
  2. Prevent freezing

How Antifreeze Works

Antifreeze is mixed with water at a certain ratio.

This antifreeze to water ratio determines its strength. A 50/50 mix will usually prevent freezing up to -45 degrees.

Tool strong of a mixture can cause the antifreeze to gel. Too weak and it will freeze. It has to be mixed just right.

Now theres a dead simple way to ensure a proper strength.

Buy premixed antifreeze.

How to Test Your Antifreeze

The coolant/antifreeze tank looks something like the one pictured. You can buy a simple tester to find the strength of the coolant.

Here are the types of antifreeze testers available:

Antifreeze Test Strips
Test strips for antifreeze coolant
Test strips

The simplest type available are paper test strips. Just dip the test strip in the coolant and wait for it to change color. You then compare the color to the chart to determine the strength.

Next are the hydrometer type antifreeze testers.

Antifreeze Hydrometers
A hydrometer for coolant
A simple hydrometer

These are very easy to use. Just insert the hose in the antifreeze and suck it into the device. The arrows will show you the freezing point of the antifreeze.

Refractometers are the next step up.

Antifreeze Refractometers

A coolant refractometer

You just put a sample of the antifreeze on the refractometer. Then look in the viewer and the line will show the freezing point. This is the most expensive of the coolant testers but are more accurate.

Inspect Your Car Tires

The tires on your car play an important role: they keep your car on the road.

Don’t neglect your car tires.

Fortunately they are dead simple to check.

Here’s how:

Proper Tire Inflation is Important

Tire inflation is important for proper grip and even tread wear. Having the right amount of air can even save fuel.

How do you know how much pressure to put in your tires?

Easy.

Checking tire inflation for winter
This is inside the driver door.

 

Check the inside of the driver side door. There will be a sticker indicating the proper tire pressure.

Tire pressure will vary with the temperature. When it is cold outside the tire pressure will drop. When it gets hot outside the pressure rises.

You need to check your tire pressure regularly in the winter. Top up the pressure as needed.

Don’t have a tire gauge?

Most modern cars have tire pressure sensors. Check your owners manual when in doubt.

The tire sensors will show a readout on the dash.

Check Your Car Tires Tread
Check your tires for winter driving.
Good tire tread is key for winter driving

You should check the tread depth on a regular basis. Having too low of a tread means you can’t stop your car in icy conditions.

So how do you check your tire tread? Simple.

How to Check Your Car Tire Tread Depth
The penny trick
The penny trick

You can use a U.S. penny to check the tire tread depth.

If Lincoln’s head is covered you have more than 2/32” of tread depth left. If you want a more accurate reading you need a tread depth gauge.

tire-tread-depth-gauge

Tread depth gauges give an accurate reading. Any tires at 2/32” or less are not legal or safe for the road.

Consider getting a set of winter tires for driving on snow and ice. The difference in handling is remarkable.

With a good set of winter tires you will have better grip and traction on snow covered roads.

I have had good luck with Michelin X-Ice winter tires.

Make Sure Your Block Heater Works

There is a simple way to test the block heater in your car. Just plug it in on a cold day. After an hour feel the engine to see if it’s warm.

If it’s not getting warm then you can test it with a multimeter.

Set your multimeter to the “ohm” setting. Touch the probes to each of the prongs on the block heater plug. If the meter reads around 20 or 30 ohms it is functioning. If it reads 0 or infinite ohms then it is no longer functioning.

How to Install a Block Heater

If your car’s block heater no longer works or doesn’t have one install a pan heater. Oil pan heaters are easy to install.

An oil pan heater
An oil pan heater

These oil pan heaters have adhesive on one side to stick to the car’s oil pan. Then you just run the cord out through the grill of your car. Very easy installation.

Lubricate and Protect Doors and Locks

Grab yourself a can of silicone spray or WD-40 lubricant. Make sure the can includes a straw to spray hard to get places. Spray all door locks and latches, rubber seals on doors and windows, trunk hinges and hood hinges.

Spray lubricating these parts will ensure they do not get stuck during the cold months. It sucks having your door or window get frozen shut!

Protect Your Car Floors

Get yourself a set of weather resistant floor mats. They will protect the floors and carpet in your car’s interior.

Just don’t stack floor mats. Doing so may cause the pedals to become stuck and cause an accident.

Check Your Car Heater

Make sure the heater inside your car is working. Having a working heater will clear the frost from the windows and keep you warm.

Dress for the Weather

Last but not least you need to dress appropriately. If the weather is cold dress in warm clothing.

If you dress in layers you can always remove some if you get hot.

No you know how to prepare your car for winter. Are you and your car ready for the cold weather? Let us know in the comments!

Author: Chris

I find any excuse to spend time in the garage. Whether it be to work on my car or start a new project. Using my tools to create things is one of my favourite hobbies.

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