How to Prepare Your Car for Winter

Winter weather can be tough on your car. Just as you protect yourself from the elements with a warm coat and waterproof boots, you should prepare your car for winter with some proactive maintenance. Taking these steps now can help keep your car running safely when the snow starts falling.

Get an Oil Change

Pencil in one of your regular oil changes before the cold weather comes so you can get the right type of oil for the winter season. Consult with your mechanic about what kind of oil is right for your car. They may recommend a low-viscosity oil, which is thinner and flows better in low temperatures.

Check Your Tires

Your tires will bear the brunt of the snow, ice and salt on the roads, so make sure they’re up to the task. Replace worn or damaged tires, and have your tires rotated. Ensure that you’re using all-season tires. You may want to switch to snow tires or studded tires, depending on the quality of roads you drive and the amount of snowfall you anticipate.

In addition, check that your tires are properly inflated. Tire pressure drops when the temperature drops, so don’t head into December with tires that are already low on air. And the day may come when you have to rely on your spare tire. So inspect it, too.

Check the Antifreeze

You’ll need sufficient antifreeze to keep your car’s radiator working at below-freezing temperatures. Check your antifreeze level and replenish if needed. Make sure there are no stains or discolorations on your water pump or engine. This may indicate an issue with your radiator lines that could cause an antifreeze leak. In particular, the O-rings that connect your lines to your radiator can become distressed in low temperatures.

Change Your Windshield Wiper Blades and Fluid

Regular windshield wiper fluid freezes easily, so replace it with a designated winter fluid to keep your windshield clear of ice. If your blades are getting worn out, put in new ones. Angie’s List has a handy guide to help you decide if it’s time to replace your blades.

Make Sure Your Battery’s in Good Shape

The Chicago Tribune reports that car batteries should be changed every three to five years. If it’s been a while since you last had your battery looked at, see a mechanic for a battery check-up. If you’re due for a new battery, now’s the time to get one.

Take Care of Your Car’s Exterior

Road salt can wreak havoc on your car, especially if you already have some scratches and rust spots in need of attention. Have those repaired before the salt on slushy, grimy roads takes its toll. And apply a sealant to stave off corrosion. Your rocker panels are especially prone to rusting, so give them extra attention.

Taking the time to prepare your car for winter will pay off when the temperature drops and the roads are slick. You’ll feel safer driving — and your car and savings account will thank you.

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