A Complete Guide on How to Winterize Your Car

Winter weather can wreak havoc on your car, but there are ways to stay ahead of the cold. Winterize your car by staying on top of defensive driving, keeping essential winter items inside your car, and scheduling winter-specific maintenance.

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Joel Ohman is the CEO of a private equity backed digital media company. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, author, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur who loves creating new things, whether books or businesses. He has also previously served as the founder and resident CFP® of a national insurance agency, Real Time Health Quotes. He has an MBA from the University of South Florida. Jo...

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Reviewed by Joel Ohman
Founder & CFP® Joel Ohman

UPDATED: Mar 11, 2022

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Here's what you need to know...

  • Winterize your car by regularly monitoring your fuel levels and keeping essential items in your car like a shovel, jumper cables, an ice scraper, and snow broom
  • In inclement winter weather, increase your following distance, drive more slowly when roads are slick, and pass with caution
  • Perform a regular maintenance and vehicle recall check

The forecast is predicting snowfall and plummeting temperatures. You already know how to winterize your wardrobe for the inclement weather, but how are you making sure your car is up for the cold weather?

To help you winterize your car, you’ll learn about:

  • Defensive driving tips for smoothly getting through a winter storm
  • Essential winter items to keep inside your car
  • Winter specific car maintenance to schedule

With simple preparation, you’ll be equipped to handle cold weather situations on and off the road. Follow along to learn some of the most important winterizing steps. When risks are higher on the road in the winter, having the best auto policy is another way to prepare for the icy conditions.

How do you prepare for snowstorm driving?

On your commute home from work during the winter, you might run into unexpected delays with the onset of a snowstorm. When the plows haven’t cleared the highways yet, travel times increase. Not only will you be on the road longer, but you might encounter more traffic.

Since the duration of time that you spend on the road increases with heavy snowfall, as well as with sleet and rain, the first step is to be proactive about gas refills. You’ll always want to have a minimum of a half tank of gas during the winter. Staying close to full is even better. With ample fuel, you won’t have to worry about hitting empty on an icy highway.

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Driving Techniques for Winter Weather

In addition to keeping your car well-fueled during the winter, there are winter driving techniques to keep handy in your glove box. Some of these strategies include:

Slowing Down

It’s much easier to come to a stop at slower speeds. Since snow can make the movement of other vehicles unpredictable, driving more conservatively will help you avoid having to hit your brakes too hard. Don’t forget to go easy on the brakes when the road is slick or snowy.

Increasing Following Distance

You’ll need more time to come to a complete stop on a slick surface. Practice safe driving by adding another couple of seconds between your car and the car in front of you. If someone is too close to you from behind, try changing lanes carefully to protect your distance from the back, as well.

Passing With Caution

When you’re passing other cars, and especially if you’re passing snow plows, use caution. Plows are large and slow-moving, so ensure that they have extra room. If you need to change lanes to pass, transition gradually from lane to lane to avoid sliding.

What should you store in your car?

The weather forecast is a helpful tool when you’re planning your day or for a trip, but it’s not always accurate. For those times when you’re surprised by a snowstorm, having a winter essentials kit in your car can save you from scraping snow off your car with your mittens.

Here are some items to keep handy:

  • Ice scraper and broom to clean off your car
  • Emergency blanket and first aid kit
  • Bottled water and snacks
  • Shovel and jumper cables

In addition to these basic items, consider taking another precautionary step by including orange cones or other markers in your trunk. In the event that you have to stop on the side of the road, placing cones or lights around your car can increase your visibility while you wait for assistance. With preparation, you might also be equipped to help other stranded motorists in need.

What kind of maintenance should you do?

Through the winter months, your car weathers more extreme natural conditions that stress the systems in your vehicle. One part of your car that is prone to difficulties in the winter is your tire pressure. Look at the sticker inside your car door or check your car manual to find the ideal PSI for your front and rear tires.

Your tire pressure can fluctuate with drops in temperature of 10 degrees Fahrenheit or more.
Check your PSI with a handheld tire pressure gauge or at a gas station. You’ll want to check your tires at least once a month and always before a long trip in the winter season. If your tire pressure light comes on, take the time to pull over and check it.

In addition to regularly checking your tire pressure, keep an eye on other levels in your car including:

  • Coolant fluid
  • Windshield wiper fluid
  • Battery charge

When in doubt, schedule an appointment with your mechanic. Your car is putting in extra work in the extremes of the winter season. Regular maintenance prevents you from running into major issues while on the road.

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Beyond winterizing, how can you be proactive with your car?

Winterizing your car is a way to stay safe and smart while on the road. Not only are the steps simple, but they can greatly reduce your risks in snowy conditions.

Nevertheless, it’s best to prepare for the unexpected — no matter how well you winterize your car. If an accident occurs, make sure you’re covered by a trusted car insurance provider. Use our free auto insurance comparison tool today to find the best options for you.

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