Winter Maintenance Checklist – Is Your Car Prepared for Snow?

Living in a cold weather state means there’s plenty of snow coming your way in the next few months. So what better time to prepare for it than now? Here’s a list of the most crucial parts to check to ensure your car is ready for the winter. Most are quick and easy and shouldn’t take much time.

Examine windshield wiper blades

Wiper blades can become worn from usage. Look at the blades for wear and tear and possible splits on the blade. They’re affordable and you can replace them in minutes, giving you better vision and a safer drive during snowfall. Changing wiper blades is so easy, you might even be able to do it blindfolded.

Make sure your heat and defroster work

While the snow hasn’t fallen yet, you can test these during the current cold mornings and nights. A noticeable drop in heat could mean your thermostat needs to be replaced. If you’re having trouble seeing during foggy or rainy weather even with your defroster on, a worn blower motor could be the cause.

Rotate your tires and inspect the tread for wear

Many tires have wear indicators that will be level with the tire tread when worn. You can also insert a quarter with Washington’s head upside down into the tread. If you can see all of George’s head, your tread is worn. You can see an example of the quarter test in this video, around the 2:30 mark:

Ideally you want to rotate your tires every 3,000 to 7,000 miles to extend their life. Before the icy roads set in, December is a great month to put on your winter tires if you have them.

Change your oil and oil filter, if neccessary

If you haven’t in the last 3 months or 3,000 miles, make sure to do it before winter hits. Some car’s oil change intervals last longer than 3,000 miles, and you can confirm this in the owner’s manual.

Check your brakes

The thickness of brake pads should be no less than ¼” inch. If you’ve noticed squeaking or grinding while braking, or circular grooves on the rotors, or a spongy or sinking brake pedal, you most likely need new brakes.

Inspect interior and exterior lighting

This goes for internal bulbs, as well as tail lights and headlights, parking lights, and brake lights. The easiest way to check is with another person. Check each light and have someone confirm that all lights are working. If your interior lights seem weak across the board, your alternator or battery may be failing.

Replace dirty filters

Check and replace dirty air filters, fuel filters, and cabin filters. Often forgotten about and neglected, these filters can give you a boost in gas mileage and better performance in the colder months when your engine needs it the most.

Check and replace fluids

Fluids are often neglected. Now is the time to check your transmission fluid, wiper fluid, and coolant. The owner’s manual will have recommended intervals to change these fluids. If you haven’t changed them in a while, now is a good time.

Measure the battery voltage

Cars hate starting in cold weather. Fluids take longer to warm up and battery power drops in the winter. If it’s being cranky and slow starting up and it becomes a recurring issue, you may have a problem with the battery. With a multimeter you can measure battery voltage and test to see if your battery is the problem. This video will show you how:

Prepare for an emergency or a snowy morning

If you don’t store your windshield scraper in the car during the sunny months, now is the time to dig it out or purchase a new one if you’ve misplaced it. Also, if your car breaks down at a bad time, it’s a good idea to have blankets, gloves, road flares, a flash light, or phone charger in case of an emergency.

Hopefully you don’t procrastinate. If you do and find yourself caught in the snow fixing up your car, review our top ten tips for winter wrenching.

One thought to “Winter Maintenance Checklist – Is Your Car Prepared for Snow?”

  1. Great tips! Please everyone check your tire tread. We have the “pleasure” of meeting so many of you that have slipped off the side of the road that are in need of tires. I wonder how many would have been able to maintain control if they had decent tires.

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