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Winter Car Maintenance Tips

Winter Car Maintenance - Driving in Rain
Steve Thompson Headshot
Steve Thompson
September 2, 2022

Your car can experience accelerated wear and tear in winter, so it's a good idea to get it serviced before the cold weather sets in. Driving in rain and snow can take a toll on your vehicle's exterior and pose safety risks. Here are essential winter car maintenance tips to keep your car in good condition.

Prepare Your Car for Winter Conditions

One of the most important winter car maintenance tips is to plan a transition from extremely hot weather to cooler temperatures. You can optimize your cooling system by maintaining the right balance of antifreeze and water, a ratio between 50/50 and 70/30. All your car's fluids should be maintained at proper levels for the best performance.

Remember that auto parts can wear out any time during the year, so it helps to take your car to a reputable repair shop at least once a year to inspect the belts, cables, spark plugs, and other parts. An experienced auto technician can tell you which car parts might need to be replaced in the near future. While your budget should be a factor in what you pay in repair costs, safety should also be a priority.

Safety Importance of Tire Pressure

Checking Tire Pressure

Make sure all your tires have sufficient tread. Consider switching to heavier tires in the winter if your region typically gets snow or frequent rain. Cold temperatures and wet conditions can affect the traction of your tires. Check the tire pressure regularly to ensure it's at the level specified by the manufacturer in your owner's manual or listed on the label in the door jam on the driver's side.

A low or leaky tire can turn into a flat tire while driving. Tire pressure can change with temperature, as a shift in 10 degrees can cause a fluctuation of one pound per square inch (PSI). Take care of tire leaks soon after you discover them.

Use Winter Tires on Snow and Ice

Snow tires help reduce the number of winter traffic accidents in a region with icy conditions. These tires are bigger and more robust than all-season tires. One of the most insightful maintenance tips involving tires is to use winter tires in the winter and regular tires the rest of the year. Be aware that temperature changes can affect tire traction. The rubber used for regular tires cannot grip the roadway as effectively as winter tires, engineered to resist rubber's hardening in cold weather.

Protect Your Vehicle's Exterior

Applying Wax to the car

Your vehicle's exterior can be degraded by wet and cold weather. The best way to protect the exterior is in a covered parking space with a climate control system that detects when hot or cold temperatures exceed certain thresholds. A winter car maintenance tips guide wouldn't be complete without a mention of wax finishes. Adding a coat of polymer wax to your car's exterior surface provides protection against snow, sleet, dirt, and road salt.

Maintain a Half-Tank of Gas

Always check your fuel level to keep the tank at least half full. Doing so will assure you won't run out of gas and get stranded in the cold. It's also better for a car's fuel system to keep a certain amount of gas in the tank. Some people like to keep the gas tank full, especially if they don't drive much.

Inspect Your Windshield Wipers and Fluid

Washer fluid for windshield wipers should be checked before the rainy season begins. Inspect the wiper blades as well for wear and tear. Worn wiper blades can put streaks on your windshield that reduce driver visibility. In the winter, you might consider switching to heavier blades suited for wiping away snow and ice. You can get more durability from wiper blades by periodically cleaning them with window cleaner, vinegar, and rubbing alcohol.

Practice Safe Winter Driving

Woman driving during winter

Among the best overall car care tips is to practice safe winter driving. Be careful driving around wet curves because when the tires slide, they wear out faster. A key priority should be visibility since cracks and dirt can obstruct the windshield. Take your car to an auto glass specialist for window repair. If your rear-window defroster stops working, immediately take your car to a repair shop since rear visibility is essential for safety.

You can lower the risks of winter accidents by driving within the speed limit and slowing down for uncertain or challenging road conditions. Pay attention to appropriate speeds and stopping distances between vehicles. Understand the basics of what to do when your car starts sliding out of control, which may involve steering in the opposite direction of the slide.

Store a Winter Safety Kit in Your Car

Be sure to keep a winter safety kit in your car for emergencies. It should include first-aid supplies, blankets, a flashlight, and tools in case your car breaks down. Depending on the size of your vehicle, consider allocating storage space for food and water. Other items to consider are warm clothes, gloves, batteries, jumper cables, and an ice scraper.

Conclusion

These winter car maintenance tips will help protect you and your vehicle through the wet season, and the best way to keep your car in good shape is to have it serviced regularly by a trusted auto shop.

Speaking of protecting yourself, if you are ever involved in a car accident, be sure to discuss the situation with an experienced legal professional like Sandra Robertson, who specializes in auto accidents and can help you win the maximum possible compensation from insurance companies.