It’s important to winterize your car–for both the safety of your family and to save money! Unprepared cars can break down, costing your family more than you bargained for! Check out these six simple tips to cold-weather vehicle safety!
We had our first “big” snow of the season this past weekend. And when I say “big,” I mean we had between six to seven inches.
Don’t laugh, northern neighbors! This snow is a really big deal to us Southerners!
In all seriousness, snow and ice are no joke where I live in North Carolina. Since we only get it a few times per year, town shuts down.
We enjoy our snow days, making homemade snow cream, sipping hot chocolate, and cuddling by the fire.
But when we do have to get out, it’s best to be prepared.
My dad was (and still is, at nearly 65!) a staunch advocate of making sure you winterize your car and keep your vehicles prepared and ready to go in case of any natural disaster or unusual weather patterns. He always made sure our family cars had fresh oil and were well-stocked in case of an emergency.
Since he was a hospital administrator, he didn’t get to stay home on snow days. He had to get to work rain, sleet, snow, or ice–and he had a 45-minute commute each way!
In fact, our family still laughs about the year good ‘ol dad was the only car on the interstate when the news showed clips of the road conditions during a snowstorm.
My dad taught me that even if something doesn’t happen frequently, it pays off to prepare.
With that in mind, here are 6 simple tips to winterize your car.
Winterize Your Car
1. Add Antifreeze
This is something my dad is adamant about. Antifreeze can help protect your engine from extreme temperatures and help keep fluids from freezing, as cold sets in.
My dad recommends keeping antifreeze stocked in the back of your car all year long, so you don’t forget to add it to your trunk once winter starts.
2. Check Tires
Have you ever noticed a little warning light come on your car every time the weather turns cold? It does in mine! This alarmed me the first few times it happened, but now I know it’s normal.
When temperatures fall, air inside tires contracts and causes the pressure inside to drop, which can make tires susceptible to damage.
Tires are expensive, so we definitely want to do all we can to preserve them.
Will took our tires to get pressurized last week in prep for our weekend “snowstorm”!
I knew what a tire pressure gauge was from an early age because my dad always had one in our glove box. We keep one in our vehicles now as well. This is an easy, affordable way to keep your tires in check all year long.
3. Change Oil
Colder temperatures can cause motor oil to thicken, which can cause starting problems.
Change your oil just before winter to help keep oil flowing easily through your engine.
My dad always changed our oil himself when I was growing up, but we take ours to a local automotive store.
It’s really important to change your oil either every three months or every 3,000 (depending on what kind of oil you use–some can go up to 6,000 miles).
My parents have been able to keep vehicles going strong for many years, and my dad credits his regular oil changes and other maintenance with making this a reality.
Not having to buy a new vehicle every few years really helps save money!
My dad also recommends keeping oil in the back of your car for when it gets low.
4. Wash and Wax
So I had never heard of this one before, but as I was researching for this post, I discovered that Consumer Reports actually recommends waxing your car before winter sets in and keeping it washed all winter long (source)! Who knew?!
Washing and applying a fresh coast of wax before fluctuating temperatures set in can be the first line of defense against ice, salt, sand and slush.
Visiting a car wash is also a great way to get the underbelly of the car clean to avoid rusting, which helps maintain the overall value of the vehicle.
Additionally, washing at a car wash regularly in winter can help keep the windshields, mirrors and lights clean, which is important in ensuring the best possible vision for the driver.
Will said to also get your cars washed after a big snow because you don’t want to keep all of the salt and chemicals from the road on your vehicles!
5. Replace Wipers
If you live in a cold-weather state, you probably already know this tip. Those of us in the South don’t have to necessarily do this every single year, but it’s important to at least check wipers before winter sets in.
As thick snow starts falling, or when rain and water turn to ice, it’s important to have properly fitted wiper blades to keep your windshield clear.
6. Pack an Emergency Kit
This one is SO important! You never know when or where your car will break down. We keep an emergency kit in our car year-round.
To be prepared in case of winter emergencies, keep essential items in your vehicle, like gloves, ice scrapper, shovel, salt or sand, warm clothing and blankets, jumper cables and first-aid kit.
These are wonderful tips! Thank you so much for sharing. One thing that we do to winterize our car (who I have affectionately named Evangeline) is to have the brakes checked before we know it’s going to snow! I live in NC as well and the ice is nothing to mess around with…. and it sticks around for days!
Emergency kit is a must! With water.
Christina in Seattle
Christina H in Seattle
I ALWAYS keep 2 cans of an emergency tire inflator in my car – year ’round. It is an aerosol can of ‘air’ that will mostly fill a flat tire – more than enough to drive 10-25 miles or more.
A local brand here is ‘Fix-a-Flat’. Any car parts store and other places like K-Mart, Target etc. stock it and it runs about 5$ here. SUPER easy to use – if you know how to put air in your tire or check tire pressure, its even easier!
This has not only saved me several times, (even waiting 2-3hrs for AAA auto), but I have passed out several to other poor individuals as well.
These are great tips. Having blankets and snacks are a must. If you get stranded for any reason, these items will make sure you can be more comfortable while in the car. Having a flashlight with working batteries and emergency flares are another good idea. Making sure the spare tire is in good condition is another.
For me where I live, making sure I have good tires/tread is the most important thing in preparing for winter. We don’t get a lot of harsh weather, but live in the mountains and the inclines and declines tend to be very slick.
Thank you for sharing! One of the things I find most helpful is an ice scraper. I live in Michigan, so when the weather gets bad I really try to make sure that all of my windows are clear before I start the car.
Checking to see that the car is in good running order, including many of your tips. I’m not sure we check the wiper blades though. Great tip. Thanks.
We always carry a coffee can with a candle in it, and an extra blanket for extra heat if your car dies on a secluded road. Always carry a gallon of water, emergency car kit, snacks and a paper folding map.
Well, since I live even further south, we don’t do much different in winter. I do however keep a blanket in my car. If we were to ever have car trouble, I want to be able to keep us warm.
You can also use kitty litter instead of salt or sand. Another thing you can do if you need traction is use the rubber floor mats by your tires to get moving. To melt ice you can make a bottle filled 2/3 with vinegar 1/3 water and spray on windows until they are cleared of ice and snow.
We also keep blankets in our car- in case we get stuck and have to turn the car off! :). This Florida girl didn’t understand all the winterizing until my first winter up north!
My husband got trapped on the interstate in Atlanta a few years back for over 24 hrs. I now ensure that he has water, snacks and basic toiletries in his car.
I have snow tires put on every winter, so that is my best tip.
I live in South Dakota. We have some harsh winters here. I keep an emergency kit in my car and I also keep on top of maintenance year round with inspections and timely oil changes, topping off fluids, etc. 🙂
Snow tires or at least making sure your tires are in good shape.
I, too, am from the south and have learned (the hard way) once my family moved up north! Two things we always do when a winter storm is heading our way is 1) keep the wiper blades pulled out (so they don’t freeze to the windshield) and 2) back the car in the driveway so that it’s easier to get out over snow/ice when we do have to leave!
We are big on having emergency supplies. My husband has a long commute so in the winter he keeps a sleeping bag, kitty litter (for traction), foldable shovel, a few snack and water in his car. Every year there is usually at least once or twice cars end up stranded on the highway, we definitely want him to be prepared.
You should keep emergency blankets in your car and plenty of water. Doesn’t hurt to have something to start a fire with as well.
We live in South Dakota – emergency kits are a must- including jumper cables, charged cell phones, blankets, shovel, food and water. Thanks for the tips!
Making a cross-country trip in the dead of winter, we made sure to have tire chains specific to our vehicle in the event that they would be required. Jumper cables, basic tool kit, extra pair of shoes, blanket, ice scraper/brush, homemade de-icer spray, for kiddos traveling along, always having their heavy coats in reach in the vehicle (but not on under their carseat straps), and one of the best things we did was make sure our garage was cleared so we could park both our van and car inside to help prevent a lot of issues (a great reason to not use a garage as mass storage). And one of the lost arts, especially when living in an area that sees the winter season in all its glory, is learning how to drive with icy conditions (having an experienced driver accompany one without experience to a deserted icy-snow-covered parking lot and purposely make the car slide to learn how to correct the vehicle in the event of losing control on the road)
We keep kitty litter and a collapsible snow shovel and non pershible high energy food in the car as well in our winter kit, along with extra blankets. If a storm is bad enough you could potentially be stuck on the roadside for a couple days. That can get cold and hungry fast!
I recently read that if you are asking about whether to invest in snow tires, ask yourself how much your life is worth. We’re heading, moving actually, to Utah at the end of this month from DC. We’re definitely taking the southerly route with the kids to get there in our minivan. Still no guarantees. We just spent the weekend at a wedding in Dallas and drove from the airport to a downtown hotel in full snow and lots of black ice! Thankfully movers are taking most of our stuff with insurance coverage. Contrary to what people in SoCal where I’m from or Texas where my husband is from imagine about DC, it rarely snows here and people don’t actually go out of their way to jog past the monuments every morning like you see in every movie or TV show. Hahaha! I imagine film crews wait for it to snow here to film key scenes in movies where the lead character needs to be jogging around Jefferson monument in the snow or handing off valuable intel in a brief case on a normally tourist populated sidewalk on the mall. People tend to avoid the city, particularly the tourist traps and we tend to get a dusting or a couple inches each winter. There are exceptions but on those days, everyone just stays home for a few days until it melts as the cities and counties really aren’t equipped to clear roads like they would be in a place that gets more snow each year. Anyhoo, your blog notice has been sitting in my inbox for over a week and I’ve been meaning to read your tips on winterizing my car as the first step on winterizing my car. All very useful information. There are many things I hadn’t considered, like blankets. Thankfully we’ll have them since it’s a long road trip. I was definitely thinking I need to get an oil change and new wiper blades. I hadn’t considered the waxing or cleaning the underside of the car. Great tips! Hope we win. We could use that stuff on the road.
Live in South AL so just blankets!
Keep your gas tank as full as you can. That added weight helps traction.
Growing up in MN we always made sure to have warms clothes, blankets, and food and water. I keep formula for my baby too.
Make sure you have good tires! Keep an ice scraper in your car!
Rachel L Taylor
This is an awesome giveaway! I live in Ohio and weathee is so crazy. One week snow and ice and the nice rain. Never know when these might be needed.
Have extra windshield wash in your trunk. Not a bad one vehicle little snow shovel , blanket and flashlight.
Where I live in Idaho, I always put on snow tires early. You don’t want to be caught by surprise.
I am in southeast Louisiana, so we don’t really have to winterize our vehicles. However, I think its very important to keep an emergency kit in your car regardless of weather!
Yes in the emergency kit having water and snacks, blankets, make sure your battery is good before any really long journies
Having blankets and snacks and water very important for us since we have several children. It’s always nice to have the vehicle tuned up and ready to go. Thanks for the great tips. it is great to have reminders even if we are from the north. 🙂
Keep extra blankets in the car!
Always carry a blanket and gloves.
Extra coat, gloves and hat. Blankets and candles. Also a MUST is a portable phone charger. I keep kitty litter in the trunk for traction and a shovel. I love in Michigan where the weather changes frequently
I like keeping some kind of snack (think granola bars) in my emergency kit, too. It can be a great help if you find yourself stuck on the side of the road with little ones.
Brush snow off of car including roof. You don’t want it blowing off in a chunk. It is dangerous for the car behind you.
This is a wonderful kit. Anyone will be blessed to win this emergency kit. Thank you for giving away such a great kit.
A blanket and ice scraper and gloves all make me feel safer to have on board.
Congrats, Eileen! You WON the prize pack! I am sending you an email with more information!!
Several of the tips were new to me, such as the wash and wax of your car before winter hits. In TEXAS, we don’t have the snow and ice problem but infrequently, but still, the emergency bag suggestion is a good one.
Whenever we travel (usually only Thanksgiving or Christmas), I do pack emergency items like blankets , water, food, in addition to the snack bars and nuts normally carried in my big purse. My husband says, “That’s why we men bring you women along on trips, because you always have food and candy in your purses!”
We always put on snow tires preferably before winter sets in. 🙂 Ice scraper and that sort of thing are a given. I had never thought about the car wax before. Good tips!
This is a great giveaway. It’s so important to have the essentials in your vehicle. Thanks for caring for your readers!
Have a good flashlight and know how to signal for help! There are so many stories of search and rescue (and how difficult it can be to find someone who has gone off the road, etc.) and maybe, if stranded overnight, you could let rescuers know where you’re located.
As much as we northerners make fun of southerners for not being prepared for the snow, when it gets above 90 degrees, our cities start shutting down because nobody can stand the heat!
Always have a blanket, gloves, and if possible a mat in your car, because in winter or heat you need something to kneel on while you change a tire/ check the engine, and gloves protect your hands.
Other than the essentials of extra snacks, water, flashlights (extra batteries), a whistle to signal for help, and car things, if you have a baby you should have extra wipes, diapers, a bottle, and formula in the car – you never know how long you could be stranded in the weather and the diaper bag would of course be depleted when it happens. If you pets travel with you, having a small bowl an a little baggie of extra food is nice if they can’t eat people food.For children (and yourselves) entertainment items like books and little toys are good to keep you occupied while you wait.
Never allow your vehicle to get less than 1/4 of a tank of gas. This helps to prevent more water in your fuel and the fuel line freezing. Also adding a fuel additive like Heet will help.
Make sure you have an ice scraper in the car. Also, when I used to drive in the country I added a blanket and spare boots.
Such great tips, Erin! Thanks for the great information!
In winter it’s important to wear or bring your coat or other winter wear every time you drive. Even if the car is warm already and you are only dropping someone off and it’s not quite cold enough to need to bundle just to get to the car and back. You never know when you will have a breakdown or other emergency, and you don’t want to be left with nothing warm to put on.
If you can swing it, an plug-in engine block heater is a very nice thing to have for winter. As the name implies, it warms your vehicle’s engine block to keep it from becoming too cold or freezing, making it much easier to start on those cold, winter mornings.
AL the comments are great. I was surprised to see that only 1 other person mentioned keeping your gas tank full. It can help you stay warm if you turn the vehicle on occasionally.
Aww, I love the pictures of the snow.? Where we live in the south there isn’t snow. It doesn’t even feel like winter today. We make sure there is an emergency kit in the car.
Great kit an tips. Add a NASA space blanket for a buck. Kit Complete,,
Warm blankets!! Yes please
We keep a pair of insulated gloves and a snow shovel in our car. Also useful is a flashlight with a magnet that can be attached to the car while you work and to warn off other drivers if you’re stuck on the road.
The basics like you have listed. A full set of dry clothes (throw in boots if you aren’t wearing them when you leave), in case you have to get out of the vehicle to dig/push/hike out. Water bottles and snacks in case you have to wait for help. I would add a cell phone charger that plugs into the lighter “outlet.” And most importantly, keep your car gassed up ALL THE TIME. If you get stuck in slow traffic and you are low on gas, you could run out and not only be stuck, but also be a road hazard and endanger yourself and others. Also, use common sense and don’t be out if you don’t need to (can you pack common sense?)
We are in Connecticut, so snow tires are a must, especially if you don’t hve 4-wheel drive!!
I’ve heard snow chains for tires can be helpful. I’ve never had to worry about having supplies on hand until this year, so this list is really helpful. Thanks!
Thank you so much for these tips! We picked up snow chains this year but haven’t had to use them yet. The AntiFreeze one is something I never would’ve thought of! Thank you!! 🙂
We always make sure to have at least 1/4 tank of gas in the car. When we see the marker get to 1/4 of a tank we always fill up. That way the car doesn’t have a problem starting and if we get stuck somewhere we always will have enough gas!
Since we have a baby I’ve made sure to keep a bag in the trunk full of extra clothes for all of us, and a few diapers for the little one in case of emergency!
Antifreeze, blanket, new windshield wipers, ice scraper, warm gloves in glove box, and snacks!
I put a spare pair of pants and gloves for every member of the family in the car, along with a thick blanket per person. Then if we’re ever stranded, we’ve got extra layers. The pants especially come in handy because often when you’re walking to your car in the snow, the bottom of your pants gets wet, and that moisture can get colder (or even freeze if you run out of gas and can’t have the heater running).
My dad’s No. 1 winter survival tip for the car, which he drilled into us, is NEVER let the car drop below half a tank of gas. The car doesn’t start as well when it’s cold when it’s low on gas. If you’re stranded, you can last for a decent amount of time with half a tank of gas.
I keep plenty of blankets, an emergency kit in my van and a car tool with a flashlight, beacon, seatbelt cutter and glass break in my console within easy reach.
A snowy winter can put many challenges for a car. That is why it is very important for a car owner to get ready for winter as it can have adverse effects on car driving. I think good preventive maintenance on a regular schedule, proper inspection of tire pressure, tread wear, brake, wiper blades, coolant level, battery and keeping some items like flash light, blanket, bag of kitty litter or sand in the emergency kit will help the individual to winterize the car. In this regard I genuinely found your blog very appreciating and would like to say thank you for sharing this.