Time again to winterize your car – Part 2

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winter driving

More tips to prepare for winter driving. Image: Iain Cuthbertson/Flickr/CC BY-SA

Now that your tires are all ready for winter, let’s stand up and continue our survey of things to do to winterize your vehicle.

Winterize your battery

The increased use of wipers, heaters, defrosters and lights in winter will tax a battery to a greater degree than at other times of the year. Batteries can also lose up to half their power from extreme cold. So it is essential that it is in top working order.

First, make sure the battery connections are solid and that the terminals are clean and free of corrosion. Then check the battery’s power. The easiest way to test your battery is to turn on the headlights prior to starting the vehicle. If the lights get brighter after the engine turns over, your battery needs to be tested further. That can be accomplished with a voltometer, or by checking the electrolyte levels in an unsealed battery.

If you are unsure of how to go about that, you may want to take it a garage or to your dealership. If you live in a cold winter place like Spokane, dealerships will be well acquainted with the request, and will be able to recommend the right battery to replace it with if it is found lacking.

Checking the fluids

Most modern cars use an oil with a low enough viscosity to endure the colder weather. But many older cars will require changing over to to thinner oil that can circulate better in colder temperatures. Refer to your owner’s manual for recommendations on oil viscosity.

Also, take a look at your radiator to be sure it is topped off with a 50/50 mixture of water and antifreeze. Most commercial antifreeze is pre-mixed, however, so this is likely not an issue. Be sure to keep it topped off throughout the winter, but never open the radiator cap when the engine is hot.

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Hoses and belts

It’s a good idea to inspect the belts and hoses in your engine prior to the colder weather, and throughout the winter. Cold temperatures can more quickly facility their wear. If you see cracks or signs of wear, replace them immediately to avoid getting stranded in the cold.

Keeping vision clear

Visibility is another issue in colder weather. Not only is there snow and ice to contend with, but salt used on the streets can build up on the windshield, reducing visibility and corroding wiper blades. Blades should normally be replaced every year. In the fall, when the weather starts to cool down, is a great time to do that.

While you are at it, take a look at the washer fluid and top it off if needed.

Be prepared, like a boy scout

There a few items that are wise to keep in the cabin or trunk of your vehicle throughout the winter. Firstly, an ice scraper and snow brush to clear snow and ice from your vehicles before you take off. A small shovel, sand bags and snow chains may also save a lot of headaches should you get stuck in the snow. Jumper cables, a first aid kit, blankets, flashlights and drinking water are also good things to have on board should things go south.


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