Winterizing Your Car
Prepare your vehicle for the cold winter ahead.
In our region, with potential for winter storms dropping two feet of snow overnight, and temperatures diving to sub-zero, preparing your car for the cold is important for your safety and peace of mind. Here are some auto winterization recommendations compiled from vehicle manufacturers, AAA, and government auto safety agencies.
Check your tires. (See our tire tips for more information.) Make sure they're properly inflated. If your tires are showing heavy wear, now is a good time to replace them. You may want to consider snow tires, especially if you commute or travel long distances daily. Also, make sure your spare tire is in good condition, and carry a wheel wrench and tire jack.
Get your exhaust system inspected. Between extreme temperature changes, slush, and road salt, the exhaust system takes a beating during cold winter months.
Test your heater to make sure it runs properly. If your car fails to warm up, or if you notice steam, vapors, or the odor of antifreeze, your heater needs service.
Make sure your wipers are in good condition. The rubber should be flexible, and should not show cracks or signs of excessive wear. Make sure your wiper fluid is full, and keep a gallon in your trunk for quick refills.
If you haven't had an oil and filter change for several months change it now. (See our oil change tips for more information). Winter extremes are tough on an engine, so you'll want your oil in the best condition possible.
Inspect your battery for corrosion on the terminals. If your battery is over two years old, it's a good idea to have it tested. Batteries typically fail suddenly, usually brought on by very cold weather. If you notice a sluggish ignition on a cold day, expect it to only get worse as winter sets in; it's time to replace your battery.
If you haven't flushed your radiator in over two years, this is a good time to have the fluid tested. It should be about 50/50 antifreeze and water, which can withstand deep freezes typical of the Chicago region.
Check your headlights, tail lights, and brake lights to make sure they work properly. Replace bulbs if needed.
Get a brake inspection. (See our brake safety tips for more information.) Have your brakes serviced if needed.
Keep your gas tank at least half full. This helps prevent icing in your fuel lines.
For winter driving, safety experts recommend keeping an emergency kit in your car. This includes jumper cables, a small snow shovel, sand or kitty litter for traction, an ice scraper and brush, a flashlight with spare batteries, flares or reflective triangles in case of break-down, a basic tool kit, and a first aid kit.