Cold-Weather Car Care

Keep an eye on those parts that are most likely to fail during winter.

Breakdowns in winter can cause frustrating issues, whether you’re in your driveway or on the highway. The last thing you want is to be stranded on a frigid winter day. If you live where it gets cold, now is the time to prepare, so you can be ready if any parts or systems fail.

Your Winter Car Care Checklist

Prevent Battery Failure

Your car battery is at the top of the list of parts most likely to fail in the cold. Have your car battery tested to ensure it’s still operable, and replace it if there are signs of trouble. If possible, park in a garage to keep your battery running strong.

Check Tire Pressure

Think back to your high school science classes: Matter expands when it’s heated and contracts when it’s cooled. This includes the air in your tires. The first cold morning of the year might cause the tire pressure warning light to illuminate on your dashboard. It’s not safe to drive with an under-inflated tire, so be sure to keep your tire pressure within the manufacturer’s suggested range as needed. Even if the light doesn’t come on, check your tire pressure periodically throughout the winter just to be safe. Learn more winter tire maintainance tips.

Watch for Frozen Wiper Blades

When your windshield ices over, it can lock up your wiper blades. If you turn them on when they're stuck, they could tear themselves free and damage the blade in the process. You can avoid this by checking whether your wipers can move freely before you drive away. Consider buying winter wiper blades designed to hold up to the rigors of the season. If you know icy weather is in the forecast and your vehicle is going to be outside, use the hinge on the wiper arm to lift the blades up off the glass, preventing them from freezing in place.

Be Gentle with Car Door Handles

Snow, ice and cold temperatures all make plastics and metals brittle, leading to unexpected breaks. This is particularly true if your whole door is frozen shut, and you’re yanking on that door handle for all it’s worth. If you do accidentally pull too hard, don’t fear—you can get a replacement door handle so you won’t have to crawl in through the passenger side.

Be Aware of Thickened Fluids

Cold weather thickens the fluids in your car, which means they won’t lubricate as well when you first start your engine. Warming up your car for a bit before you hit the road can help ensure critical liquids such as oil, power steering fluid and brake fluid flow smoothly. Be sure to have your fluid levels checked at the start of winter too, and have them topped off as needed.

Look for Corrosion

The ice-melting salt on the road is especially harsh on your car’s metal parts. It accelerates corrosion, which you might not even be able to see, particularly if it’s happening to the undercarriage. Wash your car regularly to get rid of salt buildup, and pay the extra few dollars for the undercarriage wash to avoid costly repairs later and to extend the overall life of the vehicle.

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