posted on July 27, 2019

A maintenance checklist for handling snow & ice

It never fails.  You wake up one morning, and it’s winter where you live. The roads are icy, and the visibility is almost non-existent, how did you not see this coming? Was it always this cold last year? While the winter months may creep up on you, being ready to drive your car through the winter conditions shouldn’t. Even if you don’t personally do the car repair and maintenance work, it’s essential that you are familiar with all the things your car needs for winter.

Here’s a quick list of tips to help you make sure your car is ready before the first snow hits the ground.

6 car maintenance tips for winterizing your car

Over-preparing is a great idea

1. Set a schedule for winter car maintenance

While you can’t predict when the first blizzard of the season will hit, you can get ahead of it by setting aside a few hours to dedicate to winter car maintenance as you get deeper into the fall months. Put it on your calendar, add your car maintenance checklist, set it to repeat annually, so you won’t be surprised next year.

2. Check your antifreeze levels

If you’re not familiar with what’s under the hood of your car, now is the time to give yourself an orientation. Since antifreeze is the liquid that will keep your vehicle from freezing in the winter, it’s crucial you know where it is, how to check the levels and if needed, how to adjust. If you’re not familiar with how much antifreeze you need, make sure to check your vehicle’s manual and ask your mechanic.

3. Inspect your tires

Slipping and sliding in the snow is not only scary, but it’s also dangerous, especially if you’re slipping into other cars on the road. Check the tread of your tires by using the “Lincoln” test. Place a nickel into one of the grooves of your tire, and If your car has less tread than the height of the nickel, it’s probably time to rotate or replace your tires — even for summer roads. If it snows with regularity where you live, a set of winter tires is highly recommended.

In addition to the tread, check your tires’ air pressure. Most cars are equipped with sensors to tell you if the tire pressure is low, but you’ll still have to learn how to add more air to your tires before it’s snowing outside. Or ask the shop to check your tires if you’re already there for regular maintenance or an oil change.

4. Switch to winter wiper fluid and winter-grade oil

If you bring your car to the shop to change your oil, ask them about winter-grade oil, which has a lower viscosity grade that what you usually use and will help keep your car running in the winter. You’ll also want to replace your regular wiper fluid, which may freeze and cause damage to your windshield upon contact, with winter wiper fluid.

5. Check your window defrosters

Seeing what’s behind you is as important as seeing what’s happening in front of your car. Make sure the rear-window defroster is doing its job, and if it’s not, have it checked right away! And if you’re not sure how to use the rear-window defroster, along with other safety features that can help you this winter, set some time to test them out now.

6. Prepare an emergency safety kit

Getting stranded in the snow is a scary situation, especially on remote mountain highways. While you hope it never happens, it’s a good idea to put together a winter safety box to keep in your car in case you get caught out in a blizzard for a few hours or even overnight.

If you tend to take long trips through remote areas, here are some winter supply items that you should keep in this box:

  • Flashlight with batteries
  • Ice scraper
  • Jumper cables 
  • Non-perishable food and drinks
  • Extra antifreeze
  • Car toolkit
  • Charged cell phone or external battery pack
  • Extra warm clothes (socks!)

Make sure to check the contents of the box regularly all winter long to make sure batteries haven’t been depleted or items are missing.

Stay safe this winter

Ensuring your car’s ability to keep you and your family safe this winter should be on the top of your to-do list. It’s not enough for your car to run well when the conditions are mild, but it’s even more critical for your vehicle to be in great shape when the conditions become dangerous and icy.

And if your current vehicle isn’t suitable for the cold (where are those heated seats when you need them?) and you’re considering purchasing a more suitable vehicle for the winter months, consider booking a test drive first on Turo.

You can try out a car’s winter features like heated seats, adaptive headlights, and forward collision avoidance while seeing how well the vehicle drives in winter conditions. And you’ll be able to make a more informed decision long before you meet a car salesperson.