How to winterize your vehicle

With a few simple steps, you can minimize the wear and tear your vehicle receives during the winter months while also keeping yourself safe. 

Tags: Cars, Planning
Published: August 15, 2019

Frigid temperatures can put wear and tear on your vehicle, especially if it’s not winterized.

Extremely cold weather can also create a dangerous situation where you’re stranded alongside the road without proper protection from the elements. Keep your vehicle in good working order and keep yourself out of the cold — and be prepared in case a breakdown happens.


Protecting your vehicle

It doesn’t require a lot of money or know-how to help you and your vehicle get through the winter. Here’s how to protect your vehicle.

  • Change your oil: Consider an oil change before frigid temperatures hit, especially if you’re a do-it-yourselfer. Lower-viscosity (thinner) oil that circulates better in below-freezing temperatures might be a good choice; ask your mechanic if you should make the switch every winter.
  • Keep your engine cool: Even though it’s winter, check your coolant for color and levels. If you need to add to or replace it, follow the instructions on the bottle carefully as some coolant needs to be mixed with water while others are pre-mixed.
  • Check your battery: Give the battery a once-over for cracks, misaligned cables or anything else that might raise a red flag. Read your battery’s charge level using the hydrometer, which is usually built in. (If not, you can buy a handheld one.) The charge should be at least 12.2 volts to withstand serious winter weather.
  • Inflate your tires: Air constricts in cold weather, so your tire pressure might be too low. Inflate to the recommended PSI, inflate to the PSI recommended in your Owner’s Manual.
  • Fill your wiper solution: Make sure your windshield wiper solution is full and contains a de-icer. Winter provides plenty of obstacles to clear vision, so you’ll likely be using the solution a lot.
  • Get jumper cables: Buy a pair of jumper cables and keep them in your vehicle. You can save yourself if your battery dies due to cold weather, and you can also be an on-the-spot hero to others with battery problems.
  • Keep an emergency kit: Keep these essentials in your vehicle so you won’t be caught in freezing weather without a means of helping yourself.

Protecting your vehicle to handle the coldest months, especially if you live in a northern climate, is a great way to extend the life of your car, truck or SUV and keep yourself safe.

Keep reading for tips on how to prepare for a breakdown or other roadside emergency.