Winter Car Care: Your Vehicle Maintenance Checklist

As we head into the frosty weather that colder months bring, icy roads and car troubles can wreak havoc for everyone. While car maintenance is necessary year-round, it is especially important in winter months when hazards run high. Neglecting winter car care can lead to accidents, roadside breakdowns, or simply a car that refuses to start when you’re already running late for work.

Whether you’re in the service garage or your own, there are some winter car care essentials you can check off of your list. 

□ Start your car once a day.

Service technicians recommend that drivers start their cars at least once a week, but preferably daily. In 32-degree fahrenheit weather, it takes twice the amount of energy to start a vehicle as batteries lose an estimated 35 percent of their power. This figure drops even further in temperatures below zero, with vehicles losing 60 percent. Starting your car daily will prolong battery life. 

□ Check your antifreeze levels.

While the snowy weather is a beautiful sight, it’s not one you want to take in while broken down on the side of the road. In the winter, fluids in your engine freeze and expand, leading to harder issues like a frozen or cracked radiator. Antifreeze (or coolant) is necessary for winter car care as it prevents a vehicle from freezing up and breaking down in colder weather. 

Most technicians recommend a 50/50 ratio of coolant and water when bringing antifreeze back to safe levels.

□ Keep a full tank.

Filling up is not just good practice for long drives. Keeping a full tank prevents small droplets in the gas line from freezing and forming blockage. When the gas line is blocked, fuel cannot reach the combustion chamber, rendering the car unable to start. Topping off the fuel system with a fuel additive containing antifreeze can help thaw the gas line.

□ Service your climate control system.

Heating system maintenance is an essential part of winter car care. Unless you are a fan of rolling down the windows or turning on the A/C in the winter, this is a no-brainer. 

□ Check your windshield for cracks and fill them.

One small crack in your windshield can become a full windshield shatter in freezing temperatures. When water gets into the crack, it will expand as it freezes, furthering damage.

□ Spray the undercarriage.

Salted roads in the winter can rust your undercarriage. A protective layer can prevent your daily drive from damaging your vehicle.

□ Pull your wiper arms away from the windshield.

Pulling wipers up and away from the windshield when parked prevents the blades from freezing to the windshield. For those wary of wiper springs, placing a protective sleeve of the wiper blade works, too. 

□ Replace the wiper blades.

While you’re at it, it’s good practice to change the wiper blades. Studies find that wiper blades begin to lose effectiveness after as little as six months.

□ Fill up on winter grade wiper fluid.

During freezing temperatures, you vehicle may be at risk of frozen wiper fluid, potentially expanding to the point of causing internal damage.

□ Swap your oil.

Certain types of oil become thicker in low temperatures, making your vehicle exert more effort to turn over the engine and keep the car running smoothly. The harder your engine has to work, the more at risk your vehicle is of overheating, regardless of the outside temperatures. You can replace your oil with a different formula that flows well year-rounds, including in lower temperatures.

□ Check the brakes.

With slippery and icy roads, it’s critical to ensure your brakes are operating at peak performance. 

□ Rotate and fill tires.

The Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) is responsible for the pesky little light all winter drivers ignore. While the light more likely comes on as a result of temperature changes than a serious deflation issue, ignoring the light can be hazardous. Continuing to drive with alarmingly low tire pressures may blow out your tire.

Run Diagnostic Scans Without Heading Out on Icy Roads

Elo GPS with CarRx allows you to run vehicle diagnostic scans on your mobile device from the comfort of your home. With the ability to translate over 19,000 error codes, you can know exactly what is wrong with your vehicle and how to fix it. To get started on better winter car care, connect with our team to find an Elo GPS dealership partner near you.