How to Get Your Car Ready for Cold Weather

Cold weather is on the way. Is your vehicle ready?

snow chains

Car repair people recommend consumers perform semi-annual checkups of their vehicles ahead of both hot and cold weather. This makes sense as extreme temperatures always take a toll on cars.

October is the month to prepare for winter and April is for the summer. As for the fall car care timeframe, it may seem a bit early considering the season, but we all know that if you live in an area where snow is common, November can turn nasty fast. Thus, it pays to get it all the pending tasks done before the first winter blast arrives.

Fall car care involves handling several tasks, including the following:

Examine the battery.

No doubt, the previous summer was a hot one. Because of high heat, the battery takes a beating and may have lost some of its charge. Use a multimeter to test it. A healthy battery reading should come in at 12.6 volts. If it reads 12.4, it is considered fully charged. At 12.2 volts it is half charged. Once it reads 12.0 volts, it is fully discharged or dead. This means it is time to replace it with a new one.

Run the HVAC.

A working HVAC system is critical to keeping the cabin warm on cold days and cool on hot days. It also manages the defroster, keeping windows clear of ice and snow. If the system is not working appropriately, check the connecting hoses. Also, this is a good time to ensure that there is enough coolant present.

Replace wiper blades.

Wiper blades last up to a year, but after a hot summer they may be ready for replacement. Once the window starts streaking and the blades are squeaking, swap them out. A twice annual change ensures that the blades are always ready to work when you need them. Don’t forget to replace the rear wiper too.

Check the lights.

A semi-annual walkaround of the vehicle to check all lights for operation. Headlights, daytime running lights, accent lighting, fog lights, turn signals, and brake lights should be operational. Replace as needed. While on the lighting theme, check the interior lights too. Yes, there is a light in the trunk or cargo area too.

Winter tires or year ‘round tires?

In some locales, you must swap out your regular tires for winter tires. States and provinces have regulations when seasonal tires must be put on and removed. In some cases, chains will do. If you use summer tires, they should be removed once the temperature drops below 45 degrees. For everyone else, three-season (all season) tires should suffice. Rotating tires ahead of winter makes senses too. If one or two tires are worn, then replace them in pairs. New tires always go on the rear.

Top all fluids.

Motor oil, brake, power steering, and transmission fluid should be topped off as well as washer fluid. Again, coolant should also be checked before cold weather settles in. Review the owner’s manual to find out when fluids should be replaced.

Examine belts and hoses.

Summer heat can wear out belts and hoses. Cracking, splitting, fraying, and looseness are problems that must be addressed. Tightening may help, but if there are signs of extreme wear, replace them.

Brakes, exhaust, steering, and suspension.

Various parts such as brake pads and calipers, exhaust pipes, steering and suspension components, should not be overlooked. Replace as necessary. Lastly, bring out a can of WD-40 and apply to all hinges.

Prepping for Cold Weather

One of the last matters to handle is washing and waxing your car. Thorough detailing can eliminate dirt and grime buildup, but that’s not enough. Wax the exterior and put protective coats on the dashboard to keep it from cracking. Finally, if you hit the road for long stretches, including a winter emergency kit is ideal.

See AlsoNavigating the Roads During The Winter Season

Photos courtesy Pixabay.

Matt Keegan
Author: Matthew Keegan
Matt Keegan is a journalist, media professional, and owner of this website. He has an extensive writing background and has covered the automotive sector continuously since 2004. When not driving and evaluating new vehicles, Matt enjoys spending his time outdoors.

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