No season is worse for your car than winter when you live in an area that sees snowfall. Not only is snow and ice dangerous to drive through, but the elements themselves can do a number on your car. It’s important to winterize your car. Here are some fundamentals that will help you prepare your car for winter.
Your car is a significant investment, be it new or used. Don’t let a few bad winters beat it into the ground and shorten its life. Be prepared, winterize your car, and respect the season for what it is. If you do, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about.
What You Need to Prepare Your Car for Winter
Winter isn’t all about snow and ice. Yes, those particular elements can make driving difficult and even dangerous. But the hidden danger is often the most troublesome. It does its damage without you even realizing. There are a few ways to ensure proper car winterizing.
Invest in New Wiper Blades
Most wiper blades are made of latex. When you go to the local big box automotive store, you’ll see the vast selection of blades to choose from. Yet, they all share one thing in common, rubber. And rubber will crack and dry in the sun, even more so in the dry air of a long winter. Add in the wear and tear from wiping away snow and ice and, more than likely, your wiper blades won’t even last the season.
With that said, get new blades at the start of winter to ensure you’re starting fresh. Be prepared to buy another set midway through winter. Be sure to do this if you see them grinding over crusted snow and sharp ice. Try your best to clear your windshield with an ice scraper first to give your wipers less work.
Buy a Good Quality Ice Scraper
Speaking of which, buy your ice scraper now, before the first hard snow. They will run out of stock very quick. Make sure you’re investing in a good quality ice scraper. Forego the novelty of a scraper that fits over your hand, or collapses into a quarter of its full size.
Get the big one. No, the one bigger than that one. The variety with the telescoping extender. This way you can reach both sides of your vehicle’s top from one vantage point. You don’t want to be climbing a snowbank to remove snow from your car 5 minutes before you have to be at work. Most of all, make sure it’s a multi-purpose scarper with a broad scraper, a chiseling scraper, and a brush all-in-one. Sometimes you have to hack away at the ice on your car, sometimes it all comes off in a sheet. But most of the time you need to push loose snow off with the brush.
Switch to De-Icing Wiper Fluid
Not all wiper fluid is the same. The cheaper stuff is pretty diluted which is all you need in the summer to wash away dirt and pollen. In the winter, you’ll need some hardier stuff.
Make sure you buy wiper fluid that denotes its deicing properties. A good deicing wiper fluid will use ethylene glycol rather than methanol as its active ingredient. This is the same stuff used for deicing airplanes!
If You Get a Lot of Snow, Get Snow Tires
“All Season” tires are what most of our cars have. While the name may put us at ease, it’s a bit deceptive. It’s true that an all-season tire is a great all-around tire. However, it doesn’t perform optimally in snowy and icy conditions. Many of us can get by with our all-season tires with some planning and caution. If you live in a region that has particularly hard winters then you’re better off investing in snow tires.
What are snow tires? They’re made out of the same stuff as regular tires but have thick, studded tread around them. A set of snow tires can get you up that pesky hill while everyone else is slipping and sliding like they’re at an ice rink. Even the best snow tire has its limits. It’s meant to help you with your winter commute, not enable you to off-road through a blizzard.
Fit your snow tires by the start of the season. It’s best to have them installed by a professional, at the start of the first hard snow. Driving them on plain asphalt is going to wear them down faster. So, make sure you time their installation. When winter is over have them removed and stored.
How to Ensure That Your Vehicle is Winter Ready
Snow shouldn’t be your only concern in the winter. The rock salt used to melt snow and ice from the roads will do a number on your vehicle if you leave it unprotected. Salt is a very corrosive substance. It will find the chink in your car’s armor and do its damage leaving rust, paint damage, and all-around wear and tear. If you take the steps to protect your car from winter then you’ll be fine.
Wash Your Car Often
Winter is a dirty season, especially in late winter. It may seem counterintuitive to wash your car knowing you’re going to drive it through brown, slushy snow as soon as you hit the road. But washing your car in the winter isn’t meant to make it pretty. It’s meant to wash away the salt that’s been collecting on its exterior, as well as the undercarriage. These areas can get particularly rusty if left unchecked.
Apply Wax After Washing
Think of your skin after taking a shower in the winter. If you’re like most people, the water only manages to make your skin drier. So what do you do? You apply lotion to protect your skin from the air. The same logic (more or less) is true with your vehicle. After washing, apply wax to your vehicle. This adds a protective barrier between your car’s paint job and the harsh salt, snow, and ice.
Use a Car Cover or Park Off-Street
Not everyone has the luxury of parking off-street in the winter. However, nothing is worse for your car than a wave of snow and dirt picked up by a passing snowplow. If you care about your vehicle, invest in either a car canopy or park it off-street in a driveway or a garage.
Use a Soft Brush to Remove Snow, When Possible
You’ve already invested in a multi-use snow scraper, right? Ensure you’re using the soft brush end when removing snow and ice from your paint job. Reserve the scraper for your windows, as they’ll do a number on your paint job.
If you invest in a car canopy, then removing snow in the morning could be as easy as sliding the canvas off of your car!
Safe Winter Driving is Cautious Winter Driving
Even if you take these steps, winter can be a dangerous season for drivers. Even the best snow tires can lose their grip on a particularly slick patch of road. And the last thing you want to do in the winter is lose control of your vehicle. Best case, you slide your vehicle into a snowbank and dent the bumper. Worst case, you skid into oncoming traffic.
Winter driving is about caution. Sometimes that looks like defensive, slow driving. Don’t be afraid to take easy (sometimes longer) routes, with flat terrain. And sometimes that looks like not driving at all. There’s nothing shameful about taking a snow day and catching up on household chores.