The Every Person’s Essential Guide to Preparing Vehicles for Winter

The Every Person’s Essential Guide to Preparing Vehicles for Winter

With the coldest season of the year drawing near, AAA expects to rescue more than 7 million American drivers this winter.

The nation’s largest motorist and leisure travel club projects that most of the problems will come from people facing dead battery, lock, and tire-related issues.




Winter brings ice, snow, and frigid temperatures, elements which can put a tremendous burden on cars and trucks and jeopardize vehicle safety.

“You want to prepare ahead of the winter weather to avoid being stranded on the side of the road,” says AAA spokesperson Mariam Ali.

Though newer vehicles are equipped to help combat inclement weather, experts say motorists should now winterize vehicles to make sure they are in good operating order to handle the conditions.

Here are some car care tips from AAA that can be used to prepare vehicles for winter:


Ensure engine performance


Replace the air filter as recommended by your car’s manufacturer. Get “check engine” lights investigated and quickly resolve drivability problems such as hard starting, rough idling, stalling, or reduced power. Winter weather will likely make these issues worse.


Make sure your battery and charging system is up to par


A fully charged battery in good condition is required to start an engine in cold weather. Have your battery and charging system checked for optimum performance–particularly if your battery is more than three years old. Also, clean any corrosion from battery posts and cable connections; wipe away dirt and oil deposits on the case; and make sure all hardware is secure. In many areas, AAA members can request a visit from a AAA Mobile Battery Service technician who will test their battery and replace it on-site, if necessary.


Check your windshield wipers and washers


Wiper blades should completely clear rain or snow from your windshield with each swipe. Replace blades that leave streaks or miss spots. For the winter months, purchase one-piece beam-type or rubber-clad winter blades to fight snow and ice buildup. In cold climates, be sure to fill the windshield washer reservoir with a cleaning solution that will not freeze when the temperatures drop.


Keep an eye on your coolant


Check the coolant level when the engine is cold. If the level is low, add a 50/50 solution of coolant and water to maintain the necessary antifreeze capability. The level of antifreeze protection can be checked with an inexpensive tester available at any auto parts store. Also, check the condition of accessory drive belts and coolant hoses and clamps.


Inspect tires to ensure drivability on winter roads


Examine tires for tread depth, uneven wearing, and cupping. Tires with less than 4/32″ of tread will have reduced traction in wet and snowy conditions. Check tire pressure once a month before driving when tires are cold. In extreme climates, a set of winter snow tires or chains may be a wise investment.


Get a brake inspection


Have the brake system inspected by a certified technician as recommended by your car’s manufacturer. Brake inspection is needed if a warning light is on, the fluid level is low, or you notice a brake pedal pulsation, steering pull, grinding sound, or other unusual noise when braking.


Inspect your lights


Visibility is extra important in the dark winter months. Inspect all lights and bulbs and replace any that are burned out. Clean road grime or clouding from all lenses. Badly weathered plastic headlight lenses can be restored by professional services or using do-it-yourself kits available at auto parts stores.


Maintain the engine oil


For engine protection throughout the year, change the oil and oil filter at the intervals recommended by your car’s manufacturer. Always use an oil that meets the requirements of your vehicle’s manufacturer.


Check the transmission fluid


Make sure the transmission fluid is full, and top off as necessary. Many newer cars have sealed transmissions that do not require fluid level checks unless there is a leak.


Always keep an emergency kit handy


Carry one equipped for winter weather. The kit should include:

o   Flashlight with extra batteries

o   Jumper cables or jump pack

o   Basic toolkit (screwdrivers, pliers, adjustable wrench, duct tape, plastic zip ties)

o   Tarp, raincoat, and gloves to help stay clean/dry working at the roadside

o   Rags, paper towels, or pre-moistened wipes

o   Warning devices (flares, reflective triangles, or LED beacons)

o   First-aid kit

o   Drinking water

o   Ice scraper

o   Snow brush

o   Winter windshield washer solvent

o   Traction aids (sand, salt, non-clumping cat litter or traction mats)

o   Shovel

o   Warm gloves, clothes, hats, and blankets for all passengers in your car