Whether you’re planning to drive your car in harsh winter conditions or move it to long-term vehicle storage, it’s important to know how to winterize a car. Learn how to prepare your car for winter driving and find advice on storing a vehicle for the winter with our guide below!
Car Maintenance for Winter Driving
Winterize your car before you head out on the road! If you plan on driving in extremely cold and harsh conditions, check out these winterization tips to make sure your car is running its best.
Schedule a Service Appointment
Winter car maintenance is incredibly important. Difficult road conditions can increase the possibility of accidents and breakdowns. Help prevent unexpected trouble by making sure your car is functioning well before winter hits. Plus, getting your car checked out by a professional means they can check on fluid levels so you don’t have to!
Inspect Tire Tread
Double checking your tires is an important step for winterizing a car! Old, worn-out tires might get you around okay in the summer, but they could increase your chance of getting into an accident during colder months. If you want to check tire tread on your own, give the penny test a try. This is also a great time to get tires rotated to maximize their performance.
Check Tire Pressure
Frequently checking the pressure in your tires is an important part of winter car care. Cold air causes tires to expand and then contract as the day warms up. These shifts are unnoticeable from day to day, but over time, it can cause tire pressure to fluctuate considerably. Keep a tire gauge on hand or utilize free gauges attached to air pumps. The ideal PSI should be listed directly on the outside of your tires, on the inside of the driver-side door, or in the vehicle’s owner manual.
Consider Snow Tires
If you live in mountainous areas or in an area that’s frequently snowy and icy, snow tires could be worth the investment! Specifically designed to withstand extreme cold, winter tires don’t lose their effectiveness when the temperature plummets. The best snow tires will depend on your vehicle size and the region you live in. Studded snow tires or adding tire chains are typically recommended for areas with extreme ice and snow accumulation.
Invest in Winter Wiper Blades
Don’t wait to get caught in a snowstorm to realize your windshield wiper blades can’t keep up with the snow or sleet. Don’t wait for severe weather to get prepared! Research the best winter wiper blades before driving conditions get terrible.
Inspect Wiper Fluid Levels
Another way to winterize your car is by topping off windshield wiper fluid! Keep salt and sludge from obstructing your view by making sure your winter wipers can work effectively. Before adding more fluid, check that you’re using a product with a low freezing temperature. Keep an extra bottle in your trunk so you never run out when you need it most!
Apply a Fresh Coat of Wax
Worried about protecting your paint job and rust-proofing your car? A winterizing wax before the cold weather hits will help protect your vehicle from road salt and sludge.
Oil Parts to Keep Them Working
Keeping locks, weather stripping, latches, hinges, and window tracks properly lubricated with lithium grease, graphite powder, or motor oil is a great way to prepare your car for winter. Doing this after getting a car wash, as well as frequently opening the hood of your car, trunk, and doors, will ensure nothing gets frozen shut when temperatures drop below freezing.
Install a Block Heater
If you don’t have a garage, figuring out how to keep a car warm overnight might seem impossible. But if you live in a super cold climate or have a vehicle that runs on diesel, investing in a vehicle block heater could save you from lots of headaches. These devices increase the likelihood that your car will start by preventing your engine and all relevant fluids from freezing. There are many different types of block heaters, but the most common ones connect to an external power source through your car’s grill.
Create an Emergency Supply Kit
Stock up on snow supplies for your car to prepare for any emergency! Include the following items so you’re ready to change a flat tire or deal with any other roadside trouble in frigid temperatures:
- Snow scraper or brush
- Flashlight (and lithium batteries)
- Tire jack, wrench, spare tire
- Book of matches
- Blankets, mittens, socks, extra hats and coats
- Non-perishable snacks
- Extra antifreeze
- First-aid kit
- Small shovel
- Tire traction mats
- Gravel, sand, or cat litter (to use if you get stuck)
- Jumper cables
Be Cautious When Starting the Engine
Allow a little extra time for you car to idle after starting the engine on frigid days. While newer cars are ready to go almost immediately, older cars need more time to warm up, so give yourself at least five minutes before driving. Another pro tip is to keep your gas tank at least half full! This could save you if you become stranded during freezing temperatures!
Winterize Your Car for Vehicle Storage
Need to store a car for winter? Whether it’s a rear-wheel drive vehicle or a classic car that you don’t use in colder months, try these winter car storage tips to keep your car safe and protected from extreme temperature changes.
Consider Self Storage
If you don’t have garage space available for storing your car, you can rent indoor vehicle storage at a self storage facility. With climate control options, month-to-month rental agreements, and security features like video surveillance, a storage facility provides the flexibility and peace of mind you want. Learn more about winter vehicle storage.
Clean Out Your Car
If you’re not sure how to winterize a car for storage, start with cleaning it! Remove any trash, take out anything that could freeze, and vacuum any crumbs that could attract pests. Once you’ve deep cleaned the interior, spend some time on the outside. Any dirt or salt could lead to rust if left unattended for too long, so make sure to wash your car—including underneath your vehicle. A fresh wax can also help protect paint while in storage.
Get a Vehicle Cover
A winter car cover is an awesome idea if you’re storing a car inside because your vehicle will stay dry, clean, and free of dust. But if your vehicle is sitting outside in the winter, a cover sometimes isn’t recommended because it can actually trap in moisture and accelerate rust and erosion. In this case, it’s a good idea to clear snow and ice from car from time to time.
Winterizing your car doesn’t have to be difficult! Adding extra air to tires before storing it can save you a lot of trouble when it’s time to drive again in the spring. Slightly overfilling tires before putting your car away is a smart idea to make sure they don’t go flat from fluctuations in temperature. Just be sure not to exceed the maximum PSI.
Top Off the Gas
Filling up on gas before you put a vehicle in storage is a smart idea because it prevents condensation from building up in your fuel tank. Storing a vehicle long-term? Adding a fuel stabilizer to your gas can help protect your car if you plan on storing it for more than 30 days. This is because gas can break down over time, so it can be detrimental for your engine when it comes time to start it again.
Refresh the Coolant
If you’ve ever wondered if your car needs antifreeze in the winter, the answer is yes. Adding more coolant (also known as antifreeze) is especially important if you’re storing a vehicle outside. Because of the risk of freezing, make sure your water-to-coolant ratio for winter is close to 50/50.
Change Your Oil
A great winterizing car tip is to get an oil change before putting your car in storage. Fresh oil will protect your engine while it’s sitting and guarantee it’s ready to drive again when the weather warms up.
Protect Your Battery
There are two main options to choose from when deciding how to store a car battery for the winter. Disconnecting a car battery for storage is a great idea as long as it’s somewhere dry, has a stable temperature, and is kept off of the floor. If you don’t want to deal with removing and reinstalling a battery, you could invest in a battery charger. A trickle charger will keep enough power running to the battery so it doesn’t die completely. Stop by your local auto parts store if you’re not sure which is best for your vehicle.
Run the Engine Occasionally
How long can a car sit without being driven? That depends on the make and model of your car, as well as if it’s being stored indoors or outdoors. Ideally, you should start your car every few weeks and allow the engine to run until the engine heats up fully to ensure everything is in working order.
Chock Your Wheels
Worried about your car staying in place? Wheel chocks are an outdoor car storage idea that will offer you peace of mind without putting unnecessary strain on your parking break. These pyramid-shaped blocks wedge under your front tires to ensure it doesn’t roll anywhere.
Take Steps to Prevent Pests
Air intake boxes, exhaust pipes, and other openings around your vehicle can invite rodents and insects. Block off these openings while storing your car to keep pests out. Fabric sheets inside your car and moth balls on the outside are great ways to deter pests from making a home in your vehicle. Just make sure to remove any covers before you start your car!
Check Everything Before Driving
Thoroughly inspect your vehicle for rot or damage before you take it out of storage for the season. Check your breaks and begin driving slowly. Depending on the length your car has been sitting without being driven, give it an ample amount of time to idle before you head back out on the open road.
Looking for a self storage option for your car? Extra Space Storage offers secure indoor vehicle storage, outdoor car storage, and covered vehicle storage options throughout the U.S. Find car storage near you!