The Garage Maintenance & Repair

10 Cheap Ways to Winterize Your Car

Snow’s here, and a battle looms. Be ready.

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After a rather disconcerting wait, a considerable chunk of the United States is about to get clobbered with its first real taste of winter. Winter Storm Jonas, as the large mass of moist, cold air making its way across eastern North America has been dubbed, is expected to dump up to two feet of snow and ice across the Southeast, the Ohio River Valley and Northeast Corridor—with the greatest volume of snow likely headed for the greater Washington region. Considering that, among other things, Washingtonians have a bad habit of freaking out about snow and subsequently stripping supermarket shelves bare, and New York’s governor isn’t above shutting down subways during snowstorms, this could spell trouble.

But in the immortal words of Lisa Simpson, the Chinese use the same word for “crisis” as they do for “opportunity.” And in the immortal word of her father, we at The Drive are using this “crisitunity” as a chance to remind you of 10 ways to prepare your vehicle for winter weather.

The best part? All of them are easy, and most of them are very cheap.

Also, truck and SUV drivers, take note: Just because you have all-wheel-drive and sufficient ground clearance to drive over a hibernating Kodiak without grazing his snout doesn’t mean you should ignore these.

1.) Put on Winter Tires

By far the first thing you should do to prep your car for winter—no matter which wheels are driven. All-wheel-drive quickly becomes no-wheel-drive if none of said wheels can establish traction.

2.) Check Your Car’s Battery

Winter is hard on car batteries, partly because cold, thick oil means it takes more power than usual to start the engine, and low temperatures generally sap a battery’s juice. Having a freshie under the hood helps keep these issues from leaving you stranded.

3.) Install Winter Wiper Blades

These suckers are designed specifically for cold, wintry conditions, with extra-thick rubber construction to keep them working when other blades could crack. They’re also only around $10 apiece on Amazon Prime.

4.) Fill Your Windshield Washer Fluid Reservoir

That slushy paste coating the road is all too happy to jump on your windshield and obstruct your view, so be sure you can get rid of it just as easily. Buy washer fluid that’s designed to stay liquid even at sub-zero temperatures; it’ll say as much on the bottle.

5.) Keep a Snow Scraper in Your Car

Not one of those little ones you got for free from TD Bank, either, but a big, well-made one, with a brush and a telescoping handle. It’ll make cleaning off even multiple feet of snow a breeze. Just don’t scrape ice from your paint, lest you want thousands of microabrasions in the topcoat.

6.) Have a Parka or Blanket in Your Car

If you’re stuck in a situation where your car won’t start, this could literally be the difference between life and death. Make sure your snuggie implement is good and warm—ideally, something made for temperatures colder than you think you’ll have to deal with. Better to be too toasty than, well, dead.

7.) Keep a Cell Phone Charger Kit in the Glovebox

That charging cord semi-permanently attached to the USB port won’t do you a lick of good if the car won’t start, so if you don’t carry an external power pack already, keep one in the car. But charge it every week; remember, the cold will drain that battery, too.

8.) Carry Flares

In addition to distracting tyrannosaurs, flares can be used to signal for help, or to alert other drivers if your car dies in the road. Avoid the temptation to MacGyver them into an ice-melting tool, though—road flares burn at around 1,400°F.

9.) Fix Up Your Headlights

Hazy, scuffed-up lenses? Polish ‘em. Burned-out bulb? Replace it. Visibility and stopping distances in a snowstorm suck, so you want every inch of sight you can get. And it should go without saying that the more powerful your headlamps, the better your hyperspace effect.

10.) Winterize Your Brain

State of mind is everything when driving in cold, snowy weather. Be conscious of the fact that your vehicle could skid at any moment, and be prepared to deal with it. A car is ultimately a tool; you can prepare it for winter all you like, but the wrong driver inputs will still send you straight into a spruce.


Will Sabel Courtney


Will is the former managing editor of RIDES Magazine and the former online editor for 0-60 Magazine. He has worked for Time Out New York and Rolling Stone, and was the creator of College Cars Online, the first automotive blog specifically targeted at college students and young professionals.