Consumer Tips

Prepare Your Car For Cooler Weather

Winter brings unique challenges for drivers. You can't be too careful on the road. Use these tips to stay safer during colder months.


Print out this cooler-weather checklist and stash in your glovebox to get your car ready for the days ahead.

Every Trip

  • Before starting up the car, check around your vehicle for obstructions, including ones that might hide in snowbanks.
  • Adjust the position of all mirrors and the driver’s seat, particularly if anyone else uses the vehicle.
  • Don’t worry about “warming up” your car. Idling wastes fuel, and automakers rarely recommend it. Instead, run the engine for 30 seconds, then drive gently for the first five to 10 minutes so you become aware of road conditions.
  • If necessary, clean grime, snow and frost from windows and outside mirrors. Even a slight film on windows can create blinding glare.
  • Carry an emergency kit in the trunk. Pack paper towels for clearing windows, a snowbrush or scraper, a small shovel, jumper cables, a flashlight, a blanket and a bag of kitty litter or sand for traction.

Weekly, Or as Needed

  • Pop the hood and look for cracks or signs of extreme wear in belts and hoses.
  • Clean your headlights and taillights. Ask someone to help you check them; replace any that are burned out.
  • Keep your gas tank at least half filled to prevent your gas line from freezing.
  • Top off your windshield washer fluid with a product that deters snow and ice buildup.
  • Check tire pressure at least at every other fill-up. Don’t eyeball it; use a tire gauge. Test your battery by switching your headlights on before you start your car. If they dim significantly after you turn the key, have your battery checked.
  • Each time you fill up, calculate your miles per gallon. If you see a dramatic decline, take your vehicle in for maintenance.

Monthly

  • Inspect your tires. Adequate tread depth is critical to safe handling. If you find less than 1/16 inch of tread, replace the tire.
  • Check for cracked or smearing windshield wipers and replace them if necessary. If your region gets a lot of snow and ice, consider special winter blades.
  • Pick a warmer day to get your car washed. You’ll improve your visibility and rinse off corrosion-causing salt.

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