How to Inexpensively Winterize Your Car for a Season of Safe Driving

carSeasonal changes to the climate don’t just affect you and your house; they can affect your car as well, sometimes in significant ways. Just as your body doesn’t function in the cold without a puffy winter jacket, you wouldn’t expect your car to operate at its best without taking a few simple (and in this case, inexpensive) precautions.

It’s no secret that Americans spend a heck of a lot on our cars. It’s no secret why: they serve as our physical link to the world, and see us safely from Point A to Point B. But while buying a car isn’t quite the investment that buying a home is, you can still greatly extend your car’s expected lifetime, and safeguard its resale value, by making just a few common-sense preparations as colder weather sets in.


We’ll start with a simple fix: replacing the oil in your car. It’s no secret that your car’s oil changes in consistency and performance according to the temperature of your engine, and nothing affects engine temperature more than the seasons.

If you live somewhere that experiences freezing temperatures in the winter months, you’ll want to replace your engine oil with a thinner (less viscous) mixture when the weather takes a turn toward the chilly. As an example, if you tend to favor 10W-30 in spring and summer, change over to 5W-30 for the fall and winter. As always, make sure you consult your owner’s manual first.


While your car’s engine as a whole doesn’t operate as efficiently in the winter as in the summer, you can also trace performance problems to single components. Let’s start with the battery.

Simply put, batteries don’t like the cold, and can have a hard time starting when you need them to. Take a good look at your battery’s cables for any cracks, and make sure the terminals are tightly connected. Finally, double-check your battery fluid and refill with distilled water if it seems low.

We also recommend keeping a spare battery in your trunk, particularly if your current battery is on the older side, which you can confirm by checking the manufacturing date.


Whereas most of the tips and tricks on this list have to do with optimizing your car’s performance in winter, this suggestion is more closely tied to your personal safety than the others.

Driving in the snow and sleet can be a dangerous proposition, particularly if you’re inexperienced. But nothing makes as big a difference as choosing the right tires.

Many car manufacturers will recommend keeping a full set of winter tires on hand, and replacing all four when the seasons change.

If that’s not an option, though, the next-best solution is to choose a single set of all-season tires, which you can use through the summer and the winter alike. You won’t get the benefit of dedicated winter tires, but this still offers the best of both worlds.


Finally, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the windshield: a commonly neglected part of the car that can really benefit from some winterization hacks.

Make sure you’ve chosen a washer fluid that contains an antifreeze solution, and keep a spare bottle in the trunk if you plan on driving a lot, or over long distances. Some people also swear by coating your windshield in a vinegar solution, which they claim will make it easier to scrape the frost off during those cold mornings before work.

As you can see, taking care of your car in the colder months doesn’t take much time or money; it’s simply a matter of foresight.

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