How to Maintain Your Car in Winter

Fran
Fran Majidi
January 3, 2020

Winterizing a car will mean different things in different regions of the country. Warming up a car in winter is one of the most contentious topics, especially for environmentalists who’ve gone so far as to create a meme about Greta Thunberg ringing their doorbells because they were running their car to warm it up during a blizzard. The truth is most people are unsure if it’s necessary or not to let a car warm up in winter. However, there’s no denying that you’re wasting fuel in doing so so we looked into the matter.

The more ice and snow the area you live in experiences, the more care you have to take to prepare your car for winter. If you live in areas with mild winters, you’ll need to take some precautions too. If you take us up on some of the suggestions below, your car will be better able to handle dangerous conditions this season.

We’re here to answer any questions you may have about car maintenance in winter. See our helpful FAQs and tips below.

How to Winterize Your Car in 7 Steps

  1. Wipers. If you experience below-freezing temperatures where you live, you’ll want to consider buying winter wipers. Wiping them down with shaving cream may help with fogging issues too.

  2. Tires. If you haven’t already, getting winter tires is much advised because it’s resistant to hardening in cold temperatures and they provide better traction in wet and icy conditions. Even though all-weather tires can handle any road conditions in more temperate climates, including snow, there is nothing better than having snow tires if you anticipate frozen roads. Your tires may also deflate a bit from colder temperatures, so maintain proper tire pressure.

  3. Washer Fluids. Your window washer fluid tank should always be full and your gas tank at least half full. Make sure your defroster is working properly.

  4. Battery. The most important thing to watch for is your battery. You’ll need one with plenty of juice to get you through the colder months (see “My Car Won’t Start in Winter -- Why?” below).

  5. Cooling System. Your cooling system is also important to check. Make sure you use roughly equal amounts of antifreeze to water. Not all antifreeze is the same, so make sure to use the right kind for your car. It’s highly advised that you ask a dealer or technician and check your car manual to see which coolant is right for your car.

  6. Brakes, Belts, Hoses, Plugs, Wires, Cables. Have everything checked thoroughly. These things can break down at any time, but they should be working optimally in winter, when breaking down may mean hypothermia.

  7. Rear Defogger. Make sure this is working properly because there are laws against fogged and iced up windows because they can compromise your ability to see ahead and behind you. Make sure your side windows are also clear of fog and debris.

FAQs About Winter Car Maintenance

Should I Warm-up My Car in the Winter?

According to The Washington Post, the need to warm up a car in winter is the “biggest winter energy myth.” According to experts, you don’t need to let a car idle more than 30 seconds because the car heats up faster after it begins to run anyway. Despite this fact, many Americans believe that they should idle at least 5 minutes if the weather is below 32 degrees. Older cars that relied on carburetors did need to warm up. However, cars made after the 80s and 90s don’t have carburetors.

Is Washing a Car in Winter a Bad Idea?

If you know how to wash a car in winter, you know that water freezing is a potential if you go about it as if it were 70 degrees outside. What if the locks freeze? What if the car doors freeze shut? Surprisingly, winter is the most important time to wash your car, especially if you live in an area that sees lots of snow. This is because the salt used to prevent icing on roads is corrosive to car paint and metal. It can permanently damage the car’s exterior surfaces.

With that said, you’ll need to wash your car. Your best bet is to use an automatic washing station. However, if you want to do it yourself, you should do so on a relatively warmer sunny day when temperatures are not freezing. Just to be sure, you can also run the car while washing it to prevent the water from freezing. Wash the car in sections, the car sills beneath the car door and the grill being equally important areas to wash too.

Why Is My Car Overheating in Winter?

The most common cause of overheating in winter is a failing thermostat. After that, it’s coolant leaks and blocked thermostats. It could also be that air is not flowing through the engine properly. If your check engine light is on or your temperature gauge is wandering around, you may be confused. But it is possible your engine is creating more heat than usual, which should be looked into right away. You may need to seal a cooling system leak. Whatever it is, we suggest you don’t ignore warning signs and have your car looked at immediately.

How Can I Stop Car Windows from Fogging Up in Winter?

Make sure your defroster is working in winter because it’s your best friend. If you turn on your defroster and the heat at the same time, all your windows and windshield should be clear in no time. It can be dangerous driving with a faulty defroster because visibility will be diminished.

My Car Won’t Start in Winter -- Why?

A better question is how can you keep your car battery charged in winter because the battery is usually the culprit in a car that just won’t get started. In cold weather, battery power drops just when your car needs more power to start. It’s recommended that you use a battery at or above 600 CCA to avoid issues.

What Do I Do if I Skid Out?

Pump your breaks very lightly and don’t try to cut the wheel in the opposite direction the car is going in. Just try to slow down. If you brake too hard, too fast, your car will spin out. This is why it’s important to drive slowly when it’s snowy or icy out. It’s more about needing to brake gently and easily glide into a stop than it is about going slower. People rarely skid out going straight. It usually happens during a turn or as you apply brakes.

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