The first sheen of snow and ice sometimes makes us realize how much we aren't prepared for winter travel and if we aren't careful, that car may not last through the season. We all want cars that don't give us headaches and last year after year.

1. Type of oil - switch to thinner oil as thicker oil not allow your engine to get the proper lubrication (consult your manual}

2.  Antifreeze - check your antifreeze to make sure it is filled up and antifreeze is a mix of 50/50 with water. This will help against overheating and engine corrosion or your radiator freezing and cracking. You can check the mixture with an antifreeze tester (cost: $10-15)

3.  Frozen doors and locks - Sometimes you can heat up your car key to thaw out the frozen lock mechanism, but if your car key has a transponder in it that is the worse thing to do. Instead, have some Lock De-icer (cost: $2-3) but for a homemade version, try rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle. There are a few alternatives to handling the icy windows as well.

flickr/cc -joiseyshowaa
4.  Rust and corrosion - fight back the damage that slush and road salt have on your car by washing your car frequently in the winter time. Doors (both inside the door well and along the edges) are the first to show signs of rust. Make sure when you clean your cars interior you also vacuum and wipe down the door well.

5.  Belts and Hoses - check wear on hoses by giving a good squeeze and check for damage, cracks or holes on the outside as those will need to be replaced. Look at your serpentine belt for cracks, frays and chunks missing or if the belt makes noise while the engine is running. Most belts have a life of 30-60,000 miles or 4 years

6.  Battery - check battery for cracks and breaks or have a tech check it out to make sure you have enough life to get through the cold winter months.

7.  Seeing the road - visually check your lights and replace any that are burnt out. Also replace any windshield wipers that cause streaking as well as filling up your washer fluid tank with proper winter related fluid.

8.  Roadside kit - already we are seeing situations of people getting stranded in cars. Having a roadside kit isn’t a bad idea, something that includes a blanket, flashlight with new batteries, some meal replacement bars, jumper cables, flares or a help sign, a can of fix-a-flat and a first aid kit.

9.  Tire tread - check your tires tread to reduce your spin out on slush and hills. Tire tread is considered legally worn out in most states when they are at 2/32” remaining. That would be putting a penny in the tread, with the head down. But it is best to replace them when they reach 4/32”- which is a quarter in the tread with the head facing down (like so)

Most preventive maintenance can be checked out at home and information on how to fix is found online or through your car’s manual. If you have an older, rear wheel drive, like myself, fill up the gas tank and add weight to the trunk to reduce slipping. And remember that if you do slide and spin on the road, you want to turn your wheels in the direction you are flying - it may seem counter intuitive, but it will allow you better control. And finally, go slow and keep some distance between you and the car ahead of you, an accident will make you even later to work or getting home.


  1. Karl // Wednesday, January 05, 2011 2:14:00 AM  

    Very useful article. However, the one thing that you missed out is the car's speed. During winter, it's advisable to drive at a slower pace as it not only keeps your car safe, but saves your life as well. Majority of car accidents occur when the road is covered with a thin layer of snow. Drive safe.