How to winterize your midsize vehicle
Our cars behave differently in cold weather conditions, and it's important to make sure your vehicle is up to the challenge. Together, you and your certified technician should complete a winter checkup on your car so it can keep your family safe.
Fix engine problems
"Cold weather makes engine problems worse," explains Bret Bodas, director of automotive professional services at RepairPal, "so stop stalling and check your engine now."
If your car has had trouble starting or is experiencing rough idling or stalling, fix the problem before winter arrives.
Test the battery
To start your car in cold weather, your engine requires a battery that's fully charged and in good condition. The experts at AAA encourage motorists to have their vehicle's battery and charging system tested by a trained technician.
You or your technician should also check the battery terminals and cables for corrosion and make sure all connections are tight. Weak batteries should be replaced.
Replace worn windshield wipers
Visibility can be seriously hampered by wintry weather conditions, and keeping your windshield clear is critical.
"Bad wipers aren't just annoying, they're dangerous," cautions Bodas.
According to the experts at AAA, wiper blades must have good contact with the windshield in order to completely clear the glass with each swipe. Replace them when they leave streaks or miss spots.
"Consider installing rubber-clad (winter) windshield wiper blades to fight ice and snow buildup," advises Bodas.
Top off fluids
Windshield wash: You will likely use your windshield wash more frequently in messy winter weather, so check the reservoir frequently. AAA recommends using a winter cleaning solution that contains antifreeze components that will prevent the wash from freezing on the windshield.
Engine coolant: Check the coolant level in the overflow tank when your car's engine is cold.
"If the level is low, add a 50/50 solution of coolant and water to maintain the necessary antifreeze capability," say the experts at AAA.
Transmission, brake and power steering fluids: Check all fluids to ensure they are at or above the minimum safe levels for your vehicle's make and model.
Check tire pressure
As the temperature drops, so does tire pressure. In fact, tire pressure drops about 1 PSI for every 10 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the experts at AAA. So, while you should be regularly checking the inflation pressure on all of your tires (including the spare), it's important to check even more frequently when the weather turns cold.
Examine tire tread
"Bald is not beautiful when it comes to tires," says Bodas, "and worn tires won't do you any favors in wintry weather."
AAA recommends replacing any tire that has less than 3/32 of an inch of tread.
For the best winter traction — especially in regions that experience heavy winter weather — consider installing snow tires, such as Bridgestone Blizzak tires, on all four wheels. All-season tires may be more appropriate for areas with light or moderate snow conditions.
Ask an expert
ASE-certified master mechanic Bret Bodas has 20 years of automotive repair experience and encourages drivers to seek out expert help when necessary. Find a high-quality repair shop with certified technicians at RepairPal.com or AAA.com/repair.