How Do I Winterize My Car?

If your car isn't starting maybe it is because you forgot an important part of car care & maintenance - winterizing your car for the extreme temperatures of winter.

It's a cold winter morning, and you are late for work. You hop into your car and it won't start! You begin to realize that the reason your car isn't starting is because you forgot an important part of car maintenance, preparing your car for the extreme temperatures of winter.

When cold weather hits, most cars perform a bit more sluggish than usual. The oil takes longer to circulate, the engine takes longer to reach operating temperature, and your car battery may not have its full charge. Preparing your car for cold weather is easier than having to deal with the dilemma of trying to get a cold car started or even finding a tow truck. After a cold snap, tow trucks are hard to come by because of the volume of drivers whose cars are also stranded. There are a few important measures you can take well in advance to prevent this and other more serious effects of the cold weather to your car.

The first thing you always want done on your car before the weather gets cold is check your anti freeze level. Not just how much fluid is in the radiator, but the ratio of antifreeze/water content. They sell testers at most auto stores. It's recommended picking one up or having a mechanic check it for you. Make sure there is enough antifreeze added to prevent your car from freezing. A frozen radiator can cause your car to over heat and it can also crack your radiator and or damage the water pump.

Have a tune up done. Have your spark plugs cleaned and re-gapped or replaced. Check for arcing or worn plug wires. Replace them if needed. Also make sure your timing and other ignition settings are set to vehicle specifications. A full tune up will make your car easier to start and will also make it run smoother in colder temperatures.

An oil change to lighter oil will help protect your engine from excessive wear when starting a cold car. Heavier oil will take longer to circulate into the motor and in that short amount of time, parts can be left unprotected causing internal damage that may not show up right away, but will cost you money later on.

Winter wiper blades are a must for icy driving. They are designed to repel ice build up while driving. Without them you may find yourself having to clean your blades off. You will also want to purchase window washer fluid that has an antifreeze agent added. Putting antifreeze in your washers is a bad idea because antifreeze is oil based and will smear up your windows causing visibility to be lowered. Use a product designed specifically for windows.

Keep a gas line dryer handy in the event that your gasoline isn't treated with an anti freezing agent. Using a gas dryer reduces the water content in gasoline, which can prevent fuel line freeze up. A frozen gas line can cause your car to not run and will require the car being towed to a heated garage until it thaws. It's easier and cheaper to buy the additives.

Check the air in your tires only after you have been driving it for a while. Cold can make the tires seem like they are losing air until they heat up after driving. If you add air to cold tires, you may find that you have over inflated them after they warm up.

When starting your car, make sure that if you plan on warming your car up before driving that there is nothing obstructing the tailpipe. People have gotten carbon monoxide poisoning from warming up their car with the tail pipe blocked by ice or snow. Never warm up your car in a closed garage. If your car gets stuck somewhere out on the road and you need heat, never fall asleep with the car running, and always check to make sure nothing is blocking the tailpipe. Clear the area around it to prevent exhaust fumes from accumulating and backing up into the cab of the car.

Always carry extra blankets, hats, gloves and a change of clothing in case you get stranded somewhere. Also keep a bag of play sand, or cat box filler along with a shovel in the trunk. The added weight in the back will help with traction on rear wheel drive cars, plus you can put the sand under the wheels to give you more traction if your car gets stuck. Canned foods and a can opener are good supplies to keep in your car if you are going on a longer drive, or if you travel through areas that are more remote. If you should get stuck, you won't go hungry. Keep bottled water with you too.

© High Speed Ventures 2011