How to winterize: preparing your car for winter weather

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Winter roads can be dangerous, and even short drives during winter storms can be a challenge. There’s no way to beat the weather, but by taking steps to winterize your car, you can be ready for anything. Continue reading to learn how to servicing your car for winter, how to drive safely in cold weather, and what to pack in a car emergency kit in case things go south on winter roads.

Follow these steps to winterize your car like a pro

Always check your tires first!

  • Check/replace your tires. Having the right tires is the most important part of staying safe on the road during winter. Summer or all-season tires are more efficient when it’s warm, but they contain chemical compounds that harden in colder temperatures. Winter tires are made of rubber that stays soft and grippy in the cold.
    • We highly recommend you purchase a set of winter tires. But only install them once it’s actually cold! Driving with winter tires in warmer weather can really hurt your MPG (miles per gallon).
  • If you can’t afford a new set of tires, at least check tires’ tread. The easiest way to do this is with the so-called “penny test.” Turn a penny upside down, so that Lincoln is standing on his head, and place it into a groove between treads on your tire. If you can still see all of Lincoln’s head, you tires need replacing. If Lincoln’s forehead disappears into the groove, your tires are still safe. For a more extensive explanation, check out this video.
  • Fill your tires. Full tires are another crucial part of retaining traction during winter weather. Low air pressure can be dangerous on icy roads. Take your car to a mechanic to check your tire pressure and fill your tires if necessary. If you have prior knowledge on checking tire pressure, you can easily do it yourself at a free tire air pump found at your local gas station or car shop.

Make sure your car hasn’t been in a recall

  1. Check if your car has ever been part of a recall. Some recalled vehicles have defects that dramatically increase the likelihood of injury or death, especially in winter weather. Use Gapless to be sure your car is safe. Gapless is the last car app you’ll ever need. Everything for vehicle management, in your pocket. Gapless is free to download, give it a shot! 
    • Once you’ve made an account and added a vehicle profile, just click “import” on the recall card in order to import your car’s complete recall history into your profile, for free! It’s the quickest and easiest way to stay safe.

Take care of all regular maintenance

  1. Change your oil and antifreeze. Winter weather puts everything in your car under more stress than usual, including the fluids that require regular maintenance like motor oil, antifreeze and windshield fluid. Make sure all of these are fresh and topped off before the winter starts. 
  2. Change your windshield wiper blades. You’ll end up needing your windshield wipers a lot in the winter, especially if you live somewhere that gets a lot of snow. Having old, crusty windshield wiper blades in a snowstorm can seriously affect visibility. Fresh blades make a huge difference, and are a big part of staying safe when the weather gets rough.
  3. Inspect your battery. Cold weather decreases battery capacity, so have a professional inspect your battery’s fluid and cables to make sure it’s healthy enough to stand up to the winter chill.

Driving tips for staying safe on winter roads. 

  1. Drive slowly and stay calm. If the conditions on the road are iffy, its safest to drive around 10 mph under the speed limit. This is the best way to avoid sliding.
  2. Account for more travel time. Driving slower also means more travel time, so plan accordingly!
  3. Keep your accelerating and decelerating slow. Try not to rev-up or slam on the brakes, for both actions could launch your car into a tailspin.
  4. Remove ice and snow from your car. Ice and snow not only makes it hard for you to see, it can also be blown off while your car is moving and fly through the air. This debris can hit other cars, potentially causing accidents. It can also be blown off the hood of your car as the engine heats up and fly into your own windshield.
  5. Don’t use cruise control. Winter driving requires you to be in complete control of your car at all times. A patch of slippery ice can pop up on the road at any time, and you need to be ready for this. Using cruise control lowers your reaction time, making it harder to avoid hazards on slippery roads.

Winter emergency kit in case of car trouble in a winter storm

Pack an emergency bag to prepare for the worst case scenario. It’s impossible to discount the possibility of getting stranded during a winter storm. Hopefully you’ll never need it, but it’s still smart to pack and emergency kit, just in case.

  • Emergency flares
  • Flashlight
  • Extra batteries
  • Hand crank or battery-powered radio
  • Ice scraper for windshield and windows
  • Shovel
  • Jumper cables
  • Neon flag or ribbon
  • Roadmap
  • Chain or sturdy rope for towing
  • Tire chains
  • Rock salt to melt ice, sand, and/or kitty litter for traction in snow
  • Reflectors

Winter survival kit for your car:

  • Warm blankets
  • Extra hats and gloves
  • Water and non-perishable food
  • Cell phone charger and/or power brick
  • Extra medications

Winter can be a wonderful time, especially during the holiday season, but it can also be dangerous! However, if you follow this advice, you should be ok.

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