How to Prepare Your Car for Winter

Alice Stevens

Last Updated: February 24th, 2020

Snowy Mountain Through a Car WindowThe weather is cooling down, and the leaves are starting to glow red and orange. Winter is around the corner bringing cold temperatures, steaming mugs of hot cocoa, snowmen, scarves, mittens, and hats. As fun as winter traditions can be, the weather can make the roads more hazardous with snow and ice. If you have a car warranty, maintaining your car and preparing it for winter can ensure that your car warranty does not become voided.

We talked to some experts about the best ways to prepare your car for winter driving. There’s still time to perform these checks and to make sure that your car is ready for winter. Here’s our list of five things to do to prepare your car for winter:

Check your battery

Your battery is your car’s main source of power. Amanda Hagley, a content specialist at Aceable Drivers Ed, notes, “Between using headlights more in the darker months, running the car engine more often to warm up the car before driving, and running your heater, your battery is sure to drain faster.”

David Ambrogio, consultant at Superior Honda, also recommends making a battery inspection your top priority.

He says, “Inspect the battery cables for any breaks or cracks, make sure the terminal heads are snug and don’t have any corrosion build up, and check your battery fluid level by removing the caps to make sure the fluid level is full.”

If you don’t want to do this yourself, ask your mechanic at your next oil change.

Check your heating system

Along with checking your battery, you should check your heating system. No one likes being cold in the winter, so you’ll want to figure out any heat issue now. A car’s heating system includes heating vents, seat warmers, and the window defrosters. Ensuring that your defrost works will help you be safe on the road and save you wait time in the morning.

“The defrost function is critical, as it will ensure that you will be able to see out the windshield and back window when things get chilly,” says Anthony Rodio, President and CEO of YourMechanic.

Check your tires

Make sure your tires still have good tread. Icy, snow-covered roads have less traction. Having good tread can help prevent you from sliding around or being in an accident.

Michael Hand, an ASE certified Master Technician and Service Consultant, advises, “The number one safety item in a vehicle, besides the driver, is the tires. Without good traction on the road, no amount of engine power or braking power will help the driver stop, go, or maneuver.”

If you live in a snowy area, consider investing in snow tires. Snow tires are designed to enhance road safety with special tread patterns. Richard Reina, Product Training Director at, adds, “The rubber compounds in these tires are designed to provide maximum traction in the coldest temperatures, so it’s not just about the grippy treads.”

If you choose not to use snow tires, you should keep tire chains in your trunk. Some roads require snow tires or chains under certain weather conditions.

You’ll also want to watch your tire pressure. “Air pressure drops as weather gets colder, so it’s important to check your tires and keep them fully aired,” says George Strauch, franchise owner of Glass Doctor, a Neighborly Company.

Change your fluids

Colder temperatures increase the likelihood of your fluids freezing. To avoid this, replace your current fluids with ones that have a lower freezing temperature.

“If the coolant freezes the pressure from the expansion from liquid to solid can cause severe engine damage by cracking components which will then start leaking once warmed up,” says Michael Hand, who currently works as the Customer Success Manager for TruVideo.

You should check all of the fluids in your car, like oil, wiper fluid, and coolant.

Have an emergency kit

If you experience car difficulties in the winter, you’ll want to be prepared.

“Keep a plastic tub in the trunk with a few things you may need in the event of a breakdown,” says George Strauch, franchise owner of Glass Doctor, a Neighborly Company. He recommends the following:

  • Flashlights
  • Blankets
  • Extra gloves
  • Kitty litter
  • First aid kit
  • Small shovel
  • Ice scraper
  • Flares
  • Snacks

Kitty litter can help give your car more traction if it gets stuck in snow or ice. If you are in an isolated area, flares can help signal to others where you are.

Steven Pritchard, founder of, adds, “Ensure that you invest in spare jump leads and place them in your car’s trunk, just in case your battery loses charge.”

If you have a car warranty, some policies include 24/7 roadside assistance, so save that number in your cell phone. While your car is in the shop, your car warranty may also help defray the cost of a rental.

Once you’ve checked these five things and made the necessary changes, you’ll be better prepared to travel safely on winter roads.

Have more questions about winter car preparation? Check out autopom!'s advice.


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