The Paint A Part Blog

Winterizing Your Car: How to Prepare Your Car for Winter Weather

driving in winter weather

Getting Your Vehicle Ready for the Perils of Freezing Temperatures and Ice Storms

Winter is rough on your car mechanically and physically - maybe even mentally or emotionally but the science isn’t there to back that up… Yet! Until science catches up with vehicle psychology, there are a few things you can do to get your car ready for the cold and icy winter season. Winterizing your CAN get expensive but there are a lot of things you can do yourself. Plan accordingly with this winter checklist for vehicles, know what you’re comfortable with doing DIY-style, and give the rest to a friendly neighborhood mechanic, if need be.

closeup of tire tread

Is Your Tire Tread Ready for the Winter?

Safety should come first. There is no question about that. So let’s start with your tires. After all, slicks are meant for the racetrack, not the icy corner of Main and 1st St. Inspect the tread on tires to make sure you have a fair amount of tread left. Use the Penny Test by placing a penny in between the tread of your tires. Place the penny with Lincoln’s head facing up in the tread. If his head is no longer visible you are fine on your tires for the winter. If Lincoln’s entire head is visible from between the treads, you should probably consider new tires. It’s also good to keep track of when the tires were last changed, your vehicle’s mileage at the time of the new tires, and how many miles the new tires should last.

Mechanic’s Note: Rotate your tires every 6,000 to 10,000 miles or less to ensure even wear across all tires. This will help to maintain the life of all tires as long as possible.

Check Your Tire Pressure

VW tires in deep snow

Inflate your tires so they are somewhere between the minimum and maximum air pressure (psi) recommended on the tires. Having low air pressure in tires can be very dangerous on slick wintery roads. Investing in an air pump that can plug into your 12v outlet (formerly known as the cigarette lighter) can help save you time and ensure that you are ready to add pressure to your tires at any point.

Mechanic’s Note: You can usually get a decent compressor that lets you set an automatic shutoff when your desired pressure is achieved for a fair price. This way you don’t have to kneel on the ground staring at the gauge until it’s done. Otherwise, many gas stations and car washes have free air pumps you can use to inflate your tires.

Should You Consider Snow Tires?

Tires with snow in the treads

Snow tires are always an option. You’re probably thinking, “Isn’t that a little grandiose?” Yes. Yes, it is. Unless it isn’t. When is it isn’t? It isn’t grandiose if you live in places with harsh winters. North Dakota, Northern parts of Minnesota, Wisconsin, New York State, Michigan, Alaska, Canada, and mountain towns – I think you get it. Snow tires have a much deeper tread and when you are driving on cleared roads with them, your car will vibrate and create a lot of tire noise

Mechanic’s Note: Snow tires can decrease your MPGs so it’s best to install them during the months that you traditionally have the worst winter weather.

Regular Vehicle Maintenance

Checking oil with dipstick

Get an oil change and make sure your antifreeze is ready for the winter. Also check your other fluids, brakes, and power steering, and put some fuel treatment in the tank designed to get rid of moisture. Why is this important? Because regular maintenance is often what keeps our car from breaking down. Regular oil changes protect the engine and keep it running longer. Different antifreeze mixtures protect the engine differently at different temperatures so make sure you have the right mixture. There is a gauge you can use or your local mechanic can check it quickly.

Is Your Car’s Heater Working?

Car heater dash controls

Make sure your heater is working. A long trip in below-freezing weather in a car or truck without heat is miserable and can be dangerous. The pins and needles in your fingers and toes can become so uncomfortable that they become a distraction which is something you don’t need on snowy roads.

Is Your Car Battery in Good Shape?

Charging cables on a car battery

Is your battery ready for the winter? Make sure it’s fully charged. Many auto parts stores will charge it and test it for free and make sure its fluids are good, and the cables are in working condition. It’s a great preventative to make sure it’s ready for the rigors of a tough winter. Do not compromise on this one because a cold battery is not a happy one and it will drain fast on you even without use.

Mechanic’s Note: The number one drain on a battery is starting your car. Your alternator’s jobs include running your car’s electronic systems once it’s started (they used to be called generators for a reason). The other thing that it does, is recharge your battery. Short trips are ok, but it doesn’t give your alternator ample time to charge that battery. Make sure you pepper longer highway trips from time to time to recharge that battery. Also, you can buy something called a trickle charger that you plugin into a wall outlet and attach to your battery. The trickle charger has been popular with motorcycles for some time but they are good for cars too that do not get much use during the winter.

Winterizing Your Car’s Exterior and Paint

row of cars covered in snow

But what about the body and the paint? Don’t they need to be winterized too? You bet they do and in part 2 of this winterization post, we are going to cover how to protect your car's body parts, paint, and where to get inexpensive replacement auto body parts for your car or truck shipped to your door if they become damaged in winter mishaps.

For more information on replacement car bumpers, fenders, hoods, and more, check out Paint A Part. We have the best prices and highest quality paint and ship autobody parts online. For questions, check out our paint and ship FAQ page or contact us at 713-588-0248