How To: Prep Your Car For Winter
Updated: May 27
Winter is coming
It’s the time of year again where the leaves have abandoned the trees, you’ve broken out the heavy coats, and you cling to your bed sheets in the morning. While you’re making sure you are warm and comfy, how is your car?
We often don’t consider getting ready, or don’t even know how to get your ready for the winter months. While technology has improved over the years and left some of the myths in the dust, yes I’m talking about idling newer cars in the winter, we can still do a lot to help make sure our cars work the best throughout the winter. Here are a few ways to prep your car for winter.
1. Check Your Tread
Let’s start with what keeps you connected to the road, your tires. The first, and easiest, way to make sure you’ll keep traction this winter is by making sure that you have enough tread on your tire. Unlike in life, if your tires are balding, you’re going to have a bad time. If you’re not sure how low is too low, use a penny to test out the depth. Instead of using Lincoln's head, a method most people may know, we’re going to use the bottom of the Lincoln Memorial on the back. The bottom of the Lincoln Memorial indicated your tread depth is 6/32”.
2. Check Your Tire Pressure
Once you have determined if your tires have enough tread then you can move on to checking the tire pressure. This is relatively easy to check because most cars these days will relentlessly alert you that you’re low. You’re going to want properly inflated tires during the winter since it helps improve your braking distance and cause you to skid more on wet surfaces. Leave ice skating for the rink.
Two handy tools to have on hand at all times are a portable air compressor and pressure gauge. After having dealt with faulty tire valves and the winter, having these have saved me on many occasions.
3. Trade in for Winter/Snow Tires
All-Season’s are great, but have you tried winter specific tires? All-season tires aren’t designed to outshine winter tires or summer tires but merely perform better than winter tires in the summer and better than summer tires in the winter. Summer tires don’t handle well in the heart of winter because their soft rubber compound will freeze leading to a lot of issues. Once it’s consistently under 45 degrees make sure you’ve taken them of!
Winter specific tires are what you want, especially in the heart of winter. The compound used for winter/snow tires is able to remain flexible under 45 degrees which allows the tire to bite ice if were hit drive over some. According to consumer reports more than half of all Canadian drivers install winter/snow tires...why wouldn’t you! That’s not convincing enough, check out the video below from Tirerack.
Note: Winter/Snow tires should only be used when the temperature is consistently below 45.
4. Test Your Battery
Out of site, out of mind. Most of us don’t realize how close our batteries are to being dead until it’s too late. Your first sign should be when the engine begins to struggle to turn over in the cold winter mornings. Listen to your car!
The cold will quickly deplete your batteries, especially ones that have had their share of use. Before temperatures begin to plumett below freezing you should take your car to a shop you trust to have your battery tested, or test it at home! You can only use the “I had to take my car into the shop to replace my battery” excuse for missing work so many times (once to be exact). All joking aside, you want to make sure you check your car battery 3 to 5 years.
5. Change Your Windshield Wipers
This is more of a routine maintenance tip because you want to be able to see easily whether it’s rain or snow. Windshield wipers usually last about 1 year before they should be replaced. Some telltale signs that it’s time to replace wipers is streaking across the windshield, the cringe worthy screeching while they’re in use, and they don’t maintain full contact on the windshield.
Bonus Tip: Have plenty of windshield wiper fluid available and check your reservoir and fill it routinely.
6. Wash & Wax Your Car
Did you know there’s a section of the US called the Salt Belt? We are located there and if you’re reading this, there's a good chance you are too. The salt that’s used to give us the best shot we have at staying on the road in the winter also eats away at our cars, mostly the undercarriage and other areas that expose bare metal. Most road salts are highly corrosive to exposed metals causing them to rust over time. That’s not what you want happening under your car.
The best way to protect your car in the long term is to make sure you wash and wax your car before the season. After that, as soon as it hits 40 degrees get it washed! You want to make sure that you get all of that salt off. You may have a false sense of security for those of you who park in a garage but you’re still in danger. The salt will just sit under your car and eat away at your undercarriage.
Bonus tip: If you’re modding your car’s undercarriage (i.e. exhausts) look for products that are made of stainless steel. 409 grade stainless is better than aluminized steel and 304 grade stainless is better than 409.
7. Don’t be THAT Person
You know who you are. You’re in such a rush that you’ve taken all of 5 seconds to clear off a small section of your windshield to see and left all of the snow on top of your car. CLEAN OFF YOUR CAR. Flying snow and ice doesn’t affect you but can smash others windshields, cause dents, and other damage to vehicles and injure people. Nothing is that important.
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