How to Winterize Your Car

by Kyle McBride

To get your car ready for winter, you'll need a coolant tester and a load tester. If you don't have these tools, or aren't comfortable using them, have your mechanic do the tests for you. When you purchase antifreeze and washer solution, remove the cap and check the foil seal to make sure the bottle wasn't opened prior. If the seal is intact at purchase, you can be confident that you'll get the freeze protection you need.


Open the cooling system when your car is cold and use an antifreeze tester to see if your coolant offers protection to the lowest temperatures for your area. Don't add straight antifreeze to top off your radiator. A 50-percent solution of antifreeze and water is adequate for most climates. In fact, running a mixture with too much antifreeze is actually detrimental for your car. Check the manufacturer's recommendation for the proper solution if you live in an extreme climate. Don't automatically flush and refill your cooling system as some long-life coolants can last for 10 years or more.

Windshield Wipers

Winters are rough on windshield wipers. Check the inserts on your blades and replace them if there's any doubt about their performance. To keep your windshield clear, switch to a wintertime washer solution. Don't use engine antifreeze in the windshield washer because it will damage your car's painted finish. Use an antifreeze washer solution.


Check how far along your battery is in its life expectancy. Even though your battery seems fine now, weak batteries will fail on the first stone-cold morning of winter. If your battery is getting old, consider replacing it. You can check the battery with a load tester or take it to a shop or parts store to have it tested.


Check your tires before the snow starts flying. You want good mud and snow tires with enough tread to keep you rolling through the winter. Don't trust all-season tires since they aren't good for snow. If your area gets a lot of snow, use dedicated snow tires for best performance. To test the tread depth, insert a quarter into several places in the tire treads with Washington's portrait facing you and his head upside down. If you can see the entire top of Washington's head, you need new tires. The old penny test for judging tread depth is okay for fair-weather tires; but for snow, you want more tread. If your winters are severe enough to warrant tire chains, now is a good time to get them out of the garage and throw them in the trunk.

Doors and Windows

To keep your doors and windows from freezing closed, wipe silicone on the door and window weatherstrips. Use silicone spray to wet a rag and then wipe it on the weatherstrips. Don't use a petroleum spray like WD-40. While it does keep the doors and windows from freezing, it will degrade the weatherstrip material over time. While you're protecting your doors and windows, don't forget the locks. A squirt of spray in the locks keeps them from freezing, as well.

During the Winter

Once winter arrives, keep your gas tank as full as is practical. In cold temperatures, condensation forms in the empty space of the tank above the level of the gas and trickles down, putting water in your gas tank and the possibility of ice in your fuel lines. Avoid this by keeping the gas level in the tank as high as you can when you park the car. To take care of water that does condense in the tank, empty a bottle of dry gas into the tank when you fill up. Dry gas evaporates water in the tank and keeps ice from forming on the gas lines.

About the Author

This article was written by the It Still Runs team, copy edited and fact checked through a multi-point auditing system, in efforts to ensure our readers only receive the best information. To submit your questions or ideas, or to simply learn more about It Still Runs, contact us.

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