Recently updated on November 22nd, 2023

Here in the Northeast, the seasonal shift means temperatures begin to drop. For you, that means it’s time to start that crucial process to prepare your car and truck for the challenges that winter weather can bring. That’s right, it’s time to make sure your vehicle is winterized.

Doing that will ensure not only your safety but also the longevity and optimal performance of your vehicle during the cold months. From checking vital components to adopting safe driving practices, here’s a complete guide to make sure you’re not left out in the cold.

Mechanics doing maintenance check on a car

Regular Maintenance

Don’t skip out on the routine maintenance that your vehicle needs. Small issues can become major problems if they are avoided. Regular oil changes, tire rotations, and inspections can help you catch and address potential issues before they worsen. Nobody wants to be left without their car or truck during winter when there are holidays in November, December, and January along with all the festivities that go with them.

A mechanic doing an oil change on a car

Fluids and Lubricants

You don’t want to get caught with the fluids in your car or truck going too low, or even empty. Having that happen could cause it to perform poorly or even in the very worst-case scenario, seize up and stop working, leaving you stranded out in the cold.

  • Check and replace engine oil with the appropriate winter-grade oil, as it flows better in cold weather.
  • Ensure that your coolant is mixed at the correct ratio to prevent freezing in your radiator.
  • Verify the level of your windshield washer fluid, using a winter formula with antifreeze properties. This will make sure you can have a clear view of the road during hazardous weather conditions.
  • Consider changing to a winter-grade transmission fluid if necessary. Ask your mechanic if you are unsure about this.
mechanic testing car battery

Battery Inspection

Now more than ever, so many things in your vehicle run off your battery, you’ll want to keep it at peak performance. Doing the following will help get that done. If you aren’t comfortable doing it yourself, bring your vehicle in for service at your local mechanic.

  • Test your battery’s voltage and charge. Replace it if it’s weak or has a low charge.
  • Clean the battery terminals and connectors to ensure a good electrical connection. Make sure there’s no corrosion around the connectors.
  • Consider using a battery warmer or insulator to keep your battery from losing power in extreme cold.
A car driving in the snow showing the tires and the snow on the road

Tire Maintenance

Outside of your engine, your tires are probably your vehicle’s biggest connection to the road. Winter weather only makes things tougher on those tires so you’ll want to make sure they are at optimum level.

  • Inspect your tires for wear and tear, and replace them if necessary.
  • Consider switching to winter or all-season tires for better grip on icy and snowy roads.
  • Maintain proper tire pressure, as cold temperatures can cause tire pressure to drop.


Braking System

If anyone’s ever driven in snow, sleet or winter weather, they’ll surely know that your car or truck’s braking system can be critical for you and your passengers’ safety. Stopping short, especially when you are sliding in the treacherous weather, is always coming up, so this is definitely a step you can’t afford to miss.

  • Check the brake pads and rotors for wear and replace them if needed.
  • Flush and replace brake fluid if it’s old or contaminated.


Heating and Defrosting

This one is a biggie! We’ve all been there when you’re freezing cold, the heater won’t work or when you just can’t see out the windows. It’s a nightmare! You absolutely must stay warm and keep your visibility during the cold temps of the winter, especially if you have young ones in the car.

  • Test the heating system and defrosters to ensure they are working effectively.
  • Replace cabin air filters for improved air quality and proper airflow.
Winter car survival essentials, food, flashlight, first aid, warm clothing

Emergency Kit

Always be prepared with an emergency kit in every vehicle you drive. This is probably the first thing people think about when they winterize their car or truck. Make sure you go through it as the winter progresses to make sure things aren’t outdated or no longer working properly.

Exterior Care

Snow, ice, and salt can do progressive on how your car looks during the winter months. That’s for sure. There are some who keep their prized possession clean with endless carwashes, but that can be grinding and costly. Try these instead.

  • Wax your vehicle to create a protective barrier against the elements.
  • Apply a silicone-based spray to rubber seals to prevent freezing and cracking.
  •  Regularly wash your vehicle yourself to remove salt and road grime, which can cause corrosion
Cars in a home garage during snowfall

Storage and Shelter

If you have the option, consider storing your vehicle indoors or under a shelter to protect it from the harshest winter conditions. Every time Mother Nature can’t take a shot at your car or truck is a plus in your pocket.

Safe Driving Practices

Even if everything is perfect with your car or truck, it’s up to you to be aware at all times. This is true no matter what time of year you’re driving, but especially during the winter when there’s additional weather and other vehicles to worry about. Do your best and follow these tips.

  • Drive more slowly and cautiously in adverse weather conditions.
  • Increase your following distance to allow for extra stopping time.
  • Avoid abrupt movements, such as sharp turns or sudden braking.
Using a GPS device to help navigate car in the winter

Electronic Road Assistance

Make sure you know where you’re going. If you do get stuck along the way, you don’t want to be stranded in surroundings that might not be familiar to you. Helping this process would be making sure your phone is charged so that the GPS is working on it. Also, if you have Apple CarPlay in your vehicle, that could also assist. Of course, you could always go old school as well and keep a map in your glove compartment.

Remember, at the end of the day, winterizing your car and truck isn’t just about ensuring safe driving – it’s also about adding years of life and protection onto one of the biggest investments you own. Feel good, feel safe, and feel confident behind the wheel all winter long.

Share our tips with your family and friends and don’t forget to visit your local Ocean State Job Lot for many of the items we’ve talked about in this post.