How to Winterize Your Car

A small amount of basic maintenance and some quick inspections can get your car ready to drive through winter weather. Car trouble is the last thing you want to be dealing with while it's cold outside, and something like a dead battery can leave you stuck for hours. That's why it is important to be prepared and know what to do to ensure that your vehicle runs reliably.

If you want to ensure your car battery is in winter-ready condition, get a free battery test or charge at your local AutoZone.

Here's a quick winter prep checklist:

  • Make sure your fluids are fresh
  • Keep a phone charger in your car
  • Be prepared with an emergency kit
  • Look over your lenses, lights, and wiper blades
  • Check your rubber: belts, hoses, and tires
  • Have your battery tested
  • Have a scraper on hand

Keep reading for more detail on how to get your ride winter-ready.

8 Things to Check and Change to Make Your Car Winter-Ready

1. Keep a Clear View with New Windshield Wipers and Wiper Fluid

Snow and ice make it harder for your wipers to work properly. That’s why it is important to inspect your wipers before cold weather comes.

If they are worn then it is time to replace, and it may be worth switching to winter blades depending on where you live. Winter blades are specifically designed for snow and ice with a rubber-shrouded frame that prevents ice build-up and maintains even pressure distribution.

If you live somewhere particularly cold, swap out your wiper fluid with one that is made to withstand extreme winter temperatures.

2. Light Up the Road Ahead with Bright Headlights

Winter means shorter days, meaning you will use your headlights more than at any other time of the year. Check yours and replace dimming headlights before they burn out.

If one headlight is burned out, the other one may burn out soon. That’s why we recommend replacing headlights in pairs.

3. Ensure Tire Grip with Tread Depth and Pressure Gauges

Inspect your tires for adequate tread depth. Proper tread depth will offer more bite on the road. In some places, it might be a good idea to switch to winter tires.

Use a pressure gauge to check the tires for proper inflation. Having the right air pressure helps your car keep traction when accelerating and braking. The recommended pressure can be found in your owner’s manual.

4. Protect Your Finish with Paint and Glass Care

Wash and wax your vehicle to protect your paint from the corrosive effects of road salt. Maintain optimal visibility by thoroughly cleaning your windows inside and out.

You can prevent them from fogging up with anti-fog window treatment too. Using a water repellent on your windshield can help prevent water from sticking, freezing, and blocking your view.

5. Pop the Hood and Check Your Motor Oil

In colder temperatures, the motor oil thickens, placing a greater strain on your engine. If you have a windshield sticker or remember the weight of the oil you are using (i.e. 10W-30); verify that the oil is compatible for cold weather by consulting your owner’s manual or by stopping by an AutoZone for some helpful advice.

Check your dipstick to make sure your engine contains the required amount of oil. If it is low, make sure to fill it up. Look at how clean the oil is and think about when the last time that you changed the oil was while you’re checking the level. If it’s dirty or hasn’t been changed as soon as the owner’s manual recommends, it’s time for an oil change.

6. Keep Your Car Powered-Up and Inspect Your Vehicle’s Battery

Your vehicle’s battery works harder in colder weather. That’s why you should visually inspect the battery for swelling, leaking, or cracks, and check for corrosion (white/green powdery substance) around the terminals.

If you need a second opinion, or your battery is more than four years old, take your it to AutoZone for a free battery test and/or charge.

In case of starting trouble, it’s wise to keep some jumper cables or a jump starter pack in your trunk to avoid getting stranded in the snow.

7. Protect Your Engine with Antifreeze and Coolant

Even when it’s below freezing outside, your car gets hot under the hood while running. When not running, your vehicle’s cooling system runs the risk of freezing.

If you don’t have enough antifreeze in your coolant mix, the mix could freeze and even crack your engine. Too much antifreeze can hinder your car’s ability to cool the engine when in use.

Use an antifreeze tester to ensure that you have the correct antifreeze-to-water ratio to protect your cooling system from freezing when not in use.

If it’s been more than 24,000 miles since your last flush and fill it is likely time for another. Your owner’s manual will have the exact interval.

8. Make Sure Your Car has Reliable Belts and Hoses

Cold weather can increase stress on belts and hoses. Inspect your hoses for visible leaks, abrasions, cracks, cuts, bulges, or broken clamps. Look for glazing, fraying, cracks, or missing ribs on belts.

Those are the big things to winter-prep your ride, but there’s always more you can do to get ready for the cold months. Be sure to keep winter emergency supplies on hand, stay informed about weather conditions, and inspect your brakes.

Advice, how-to guides, and car care information featured on and AutoZone Advice & How-To’s are presented as helpful resources for general maintenance and automotive repairs from a general perspective only and should be used at your own risk. Information is accurate and true to the best of AutoZone’s knowledge, however, there may be omissions, errors or mistakes.

Be sure to consult your owner’s manual, a repair guide, an AutoZoner at a store near you, or a licensed, professional mechanic for vehicle-specific repair information. Refer to the service manual for specific diagnostic, repair and tool information for your particular vehicle. Always chock your wheels prior to lifting a vehicle. Always disconnect the negative battery cable before servicing an electrical application on the vehicle to protect its electrical circuits in the event that a wire is accidentally pierced or grounded. Use caution when working with automotive batteries. Sulfuric acid is caustic and can burn clothing and skin or cause blindness. Always wear gloves and safety glasses and other personal protection equipment, and work in a well-ventilated area. Should electrolyte get on your body or clothing, neutralize it immediately with a solution of baking soda and water. Do not wear ties or loose clothing when working on your vehicle.

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