6 Essential Car Maintenance Tips for Winter

by Jamie Simmerman · 5 comments

Woman maintaining her winter vehicle

When winter hits here in Ohio, we have several months of what I call “brown sticks and mud season.” Then, the buckets of snow and freezing slush begin. The weather is predictably varied here, and we often experience freezing temps in the early mornings and above average “heat waves” in the same day. Such weather extremes can be rough on your vehicle.

Last week, I discussed how having a winter vehicle can save you money, and this week, I’m going to share a few tips and tricks for maintaining your vehicle come wintertime.

1. Manage rust with rinsing & products.

Snow and ice are dangerous — and I don’t just mean for driving conditions. The solvents that are put on the roadways during bad weather can eat away the frame, brake lines, and body panels of your vehicle.

If you have to drive during inclement weather and know there are treatments on the road, be sure to rinse out the undercarriage of your car as soon as possible. You can do this at a car wash or at home with the garden hose, but it’s crucial to wash away those chemicals and salt mixtures as soon as possible.

To help prevent premature rusting, you can also have an electronic rust prevention device installed on your car. This device sends a small electric current through the frame of your vehicle, sometimes in conjunction with special coatings, to prevent rusting. Some people claim these products don’t make a difference, but we’ve had good success with ours here in Ohio.

2. Check your tire pressure often.

Fluctuating temperatures can mean changes in your tire pressure, which can lead to tire damage, poor driving control, and lower gas mileage. Check your owner’s manual for your vehicle’s recommended tire pressure, and measure your tires frequently to make sure they match it.

3. Change your tires.

Having a set of tires specifically for winter driving is a good idea. This gives you increased safety on slick roadways. Changing your tires between summer and winter also means your summer tires (which likely get more mileage) last longer.

4. Don’t roll your windows down in freezing temperatures.

Wait until your car has been warm for at least 30 minutes before attempting to roll the windows down, as doing so beforehand will cause water collected in your window seals and the mechanical parts of your door to freeze. If not allowed to thaw before operating the windows, this can cause damage to your car, such as leaky windows or temperamental controls.

5. Replace your windshield wipers at the first sign of snow.

When it flurries for the first time, head out and put on those new wiper blades. You may need them to stay safe during an unexpected ice storm or when that nice semi-truck passes you and splashes six inches of mud and cinders on your windshield.

6. Take your car in for winter maintenance.

Get a flush and fill, have your antifreeze checked, and make sure your brakes are in good condition before you head out on winter roadways. Also, be sure to check your battery, as cold weather is rough on older batteries.

Giving your vehicle special attention in the winter is essential. If you haven’t gotten your vehicle ready for winter yet, be sure to make it a priority for your safety and the safety of those sharing the roads with you. Preparation and maintenance will save you money over time. Since your car is often the second most expensive purchase you make, winterizing your vehicle is an investment just as valuable as making energy-efficient upgrades to your home.

Do you have any other winter car maintenance tips you’d recommend? 

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Levi December 14, 2012 at 11:20 am

This tips are vital! Your car is a big expense and taking good care of it can really help you down the road to stay on budget. Especially keeping your tires at the proper pressure. I have learned the hard way that you can quickly mess up a good set of tires by ignoring the air pressure.

I live in Texas and our winters are pretty mild, but it still gets below freezing at times and many fail to maintain their vehicle properly. I see a lot more broken down cars sitting on the side of the road this time of year.

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Mark December 17, 2012 at 7:56 am

How about purchasing all-season tires so you don’t have to buy two seperate types of tires for different seasons? I prefer Goodyear, decently priced and will last quite a while.

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MRV December 17, 2012 at 11:38 am

I have driven many winters and miles with both. I found I prefer to have separate snows on the front, for better traction.

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Bert December 17, 2012 at 7:59 am

Prevent AC/Heater seals from drying out year round by operating the off season unit for 20-30 minutes once a month or so. This means turning on the heater in the summer, and AC in winter. By doing this, you will keep the unit well lubricated and functional for it’s entire lifetime. Non use will dehydrate the gaskets, etc., causing them to lose their effectiveness.

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Shane December 18, 2012 at 10:40 am

Great tips, it is smart to take these things into consideration and your car will be much more healthy and run better in the long run.

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