Preparing Your Car for Winter Basics

What you can do:

Seal your vehicle from the weather

Road salt can turn a slight scratch or nick to an ugly rust spot that's impossible to avoid. And it can spread. Wash and wax your vehicle. Avoid costly body work by restoring scratches and nicks before they turn into larger problems.

Batteries and Corroded Cables

Winter mornings can wreak havoc on an older battery. The average life of a battery is 3 1/2 years. If your battery is older than that, it's probably time to replace. Have a mechanic check the battery and cables to ensure your car starts quickly and reliably. Some auto parts stores will do this for free.


Checking fluids is the least expensive and easiest preventive maintenance you can do. Change your oil frequently (about every 3,000 miles), and transmission fluid, about every two years.

Though fluids like oil and transmission are commonly checked, other fluids integral to your vehicle's performance, may go unnoticed. Power steering, brake, radiator and battery fluids also should be filled to recommended levels.

Don't forget to top off windshield washer fluid with a winter mix (it will specified on the bottle). If you've ever driven behind a salt truck or through dirty melted snow or ice, you know the importance of windshield washer fluid. Do not dilute washer fluid with water since it can freeze during winter's harsh temperatures.

Make sure there is plenty of gas in your tank at all times. A full tank minimizes condensation, which may cause gas line freezing. Add gasoline antifreeze occasionally.


Worn, bald or badly aligned or balanced tires can mean accidents on ice, rain or snow. Have your tires checked for proper inflation and alignment, and rotate them about every 6,000 miles. Check the tread. You may want to consider snow tires for added traction, or keep chains in your trunk or garage to help you through heavy snowfall.

Make sure your spare tire is properly inflated.

Wiper Blades

Change the wiper blades to prevent poor vision in already poor driving conditions. Also winter ice can destroy wiper blades so pick up a spare set to keep in your car. When stopping your vehicle, be sure to park you wipers in the off position before turning off the ignition. This will prevent them from freezing to the windshield and being damaged when you restart.

Anything Made of Rubber

Rubber parts under your hood need maintenance, too. Radiator, heater and vacuum hoses, among others, should be checked for cracks and bulges. Also, inspect all belts for damages and splits.


Check all your lights. Accidents can occur if you can't see where you're driving, or if other drivers can't see you, especially as we approach winter's short days and long nights. Remember to wipe the dirt off of your lights when you clean your windshield.

What is best left to the Professionals?

Cooling System

If it hasn't been done in a while, have your cooling system flushed out and put in fresh anti-freeze. It is best to have this done professionally. Be sure to check containers, belts, hoses, the pressure caps and thermostat.


Don't postpone needed brake work. It's dangerous to drive with poorly performing brakes, especially in snowy weather or on icy roadways. Additionally, postponing needed brake service also can cause the cost or the repair to skyrocket. Keep in mind while driving on slick roadways your brakes must perform faultlessly. The pressure must be equal so there is no pulling to one side, which could cause you to go into a skid.


A diagnostic check-up of the engine can be a good pre-winter investment. If you're due for a tune-up, have it done before winter sets in. Faulty wiring, worn spark plugs, a sticking choke or emission control devices that need attention, can all lead to hard starting.

Windshield Safety

If you have a small ding in your windshield, thermal shock can cause your minor ding to turn into a major crack. Small dings can be repaired fairly inexpensively, however replacing a cracked windshield can cost hundreds of dollars on some cars. Once a ding or a star-shaped crack starts spreading out or expanding a windshield replacement is often the only option. You may want to check with your insurance company to see if cost of repairing your windshield is covered.

For more vehicle safety tip, check out the Trimarc website.