If you live in a more northern state, where winter temperatures frequently drop below freezing, it’s essential to take time to prepare your car for winter before heading off to visit relatives for the holidays. After enjoying balmy summer nights and exciting summer road trips, make the most of the fall season to perform the necessary checks, replace any parts that are worn out, and put together a survival kit to get your vehicle ready for cold, wind, rain, and snow. By planning ahead and following our safety tips for holiday travel, you can set off with confidence and enjoy your time away.
Step 1: Give Your Car a Thorough Inspection
If anything in your car has become worn out or is not working properly, the first step when you prepare your car for winter is to find and replace these parts before the cold sets in.
Here is a checklist for your pre-winter inspection:
Make sure that your headlights, taillights, and brake lights are all working properly and replace any lenses that are broken, hazy, or discolored.
- Windscreen and Windscreen Wipers
As you prepare your car for winter, look for chips in the windscreen and have them repaired so that the screen will not buckle in the face of strong winds. Inspect and test the wipers and replace them if they are worn out, hardened, or not working properly.
Check the air pressure in your tires. They should be inflated to the PSI indicated on the inside of the driver’s door. Replace any tires that do not have plenty of tread (needed for traction) and consider purchasing winter tires, all-season tires, or snow tires if you are likely to be driving in snow and ice.
- Heating System
Test the heating system, window defroster, and blower to make sure that they are working properly and ensure that there are no core leaks. Have these systems repaired professionally if necessary. You might also consider installing a head bolt heater to prevent the gas line from freezing.
When you prepare your car for winter, test your battery to see if it is working properly and make sure that it’s fully charged. Both the battery and electrical system have to work a lot harder in the winter, so a faulty battery should be replaced before you set out on your trip.
- Car Seats
Check that any children’s car seats and booster seats are in good condition, installed correctly, and not expired. Prevention is better than cure!
Step 2: Winterize Your Fluids
Safety tips for holiday travel have a lot to do with preventing problems before they occur. For example, failing to get your coolant ready for winter can cause your car to overheat as it tries to compensate for cold temperatures. To prepare your car for winter, check the fluid levels in the car and replace any that are not suitable for temperatures at freezing or below-freezing.
Winterizing Your Coolant and Windscreen Wiper Fluid
Before the first frost of the season, flush out the entire coolant system, check for leaks, and replace the liquid with a winter-friendly coolant that contains a built-in antifreeze. To prevent your windscreen from icing over while you drive, install an antifreeze-containing windscreen wiper fluid.
Changing the Oil and Transmission Fluid
Older vehicle models often use a 30-weight, single viscosity oil and automatic transmission fluid whereas newer models take a multi-viscosity 10-/30-weight oil. To prepare your car for winter, replace any 30-weight, single viscosity oil with lower-viscosity 10-weight oil.
Step 3: Wax the Topside and Underside of the Vehicle
With the mud, dirt, and salt on the roads in the wintertime (in many areas), the underside of your car is susceptible to damage from corrosion. Stop the muck and salt from sticking to your vehicle by giving your car a good coat of wax before the cold season begins. It is especially important to wax the underside of the car as mud can tend to accumulate behind the wheels, quarter panels, and grille.
Step 4: Plan for Appropriate Storage of Your Vehicle
Harsh weather conditions can damage your car and weaken the glass and panels that keep you safe while you drive. Prepare your car for winter by arranging to park it in a closed garage and/or purchase a car cover with a bright, reflective neon side for enhanced visibility in case you get snowed in.
If your car cover does not have a reflective side, purchase some reflective, weatherproof tape and mark a large “X” on the top. Apply your license-plate number in large, reflective lettering on the rear and sides of the car cover. If you do happen to get lost or stuck in the snow, these markings will help the search and rescue team to find you quickly.
Step 5: Prepare Your Emergency Kit
The final step to prepare your car for winter is to put together an emergency kit that will help you survive and be found if your car gets stuck in an isolated area. By following our safety tips for holiday travel and preparing this kit, you will also be able to assist others on the road that have become stuck or snowed in.
Emergency Kit for Winter
The emergency kit for the trunk of the car should contain:
- Flares to attract attention
- Candles with matches or a lighter (keep these in a dry, sealed plastic bag)
- Camping shovel
- Sleeping bags
- Water for drinking and for keeping the car in working order
- Canned and packaged food that doesn’t require heating
- Spare tire, jack, jumper cables, and basic tools
- Two bags of sand—place one on each side of the trunk over the wheel wells (for added traction and in case your car becomes stuck)
- Bright, reflective car cover with an X and license plate number so that emergency services/search and rescue can locate you
In the glove compartment or car interior, prepare your car for winter with the following items:
- First aid kit
- Flashlight and batteries
- Battery-operated radio
- Spare batteries for your cell phone and the flashlight
Step 6: Follow These Additional Safety Tips for Holiday Travel
To prepare your car for winter as thoroughly as possible, here are a few final suggestions:
- Be ready for the harshest possible winter conditions in the region where you will be driving, keeping in mind that occasional extreme cold spells can occur without warning.
- Check the weather forecast ahead of traveling and don’t drive if a blizzard, extreme cold, or strong winds are predicted. Notify a friend, neighbor, or family member of your itinerary with contact numbers and call when you leave and when you arrive at your destination.
- Install lift supports for the hood, trunk, and tailgate to prevent injury to fingers and make packing and unpacking a breeze as you prepare your car for winter. You can find basic installation tips here.
- Give your car an environmentally-friendly wash and fill up on gas before you head out.
Enjoy Your Trip!
As you prepare your car for winter and plan to follow our safety tips for holiday travel, we wish you a very happy holiday season and memorable adventures on the road. For advice regarding lift supports and vehicle maintenance, don’t hesitate to call our knowledgeable customer support team at 866-969-5438 or online via our contact form.