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6 Winter Maintenance Tips for Cars

on October 13, 2020
snow-being-scrapped-off-car

6 Winter Maintenance Tips for Cars

on October 13, 2020

Even if you’ve lived in the north your whole life, driving in the winter can be quite a challenge. If you’re like most drivers, you’re waiting until the first snowfall to prepare for the harsh roads that winter brings us. That’s a mistake — even the lightest of snow can cause your vehicle to lose grip of the road and slide out of control. 

Consider the following winter maintenance tips for your car to ensure it’s prepared for the frosty season ahead.

DriveSmart’s Car Care Winter Maintenance Tips

These six major winter maintenance tips should be addressed before it starts to snow:

  1. Check your tires 
  2. Wash your car’s exterior
  3. Care for your car’s interior 
  4. Top off all fluids 
  5. Put together an emergency kit 
  6. Consider a car built for snow

Check Your Tires

A loss of tire pressure is more common in the winter than what you think. 

For every 10° the temperature drops, your vehicle’s tire pressure decreases by 1 lb.

While a single pound of pressure may not seem detrimental to the operation of your vehicle, any decrease in traction could put you at risk. Verify that your tires have the correct amount of air in them before taking your vehicle out on the road.

You should also inspect your tires for signs of wear and tear since deflated tires could cause external damage if driven on for too long.

tires-in-the-snow

Snow isn’t the only weather change to look out for, as freezing rain also occurs when the temperature drops. 

Driving in freezing rain can quickly turn into driving on ice, which is dangerous regardless of your tire’s condition. Equipping your vehicle with the best winter tires will greatly reduce your chance of losing control in icy weather.

Some recommended winter tires include:

* Price per tire will vary depending on your vehicle and the tire size it requires*

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Wash Your Car’s Exterior

Everyone loves to give their car a nice scrub when the sun is out and the air is warm. But winter is when bath time becomes a necessity, rather than a luxury.

The mixture of snow and road salt is notorious for dulling your car’s paint and making it susceptible to rust.

Make sure to wash your car in the winter, even if it’s an inconvenience. When applying any coating, focus on the lower parts of your car impacted with the most snow and salt.

One alternative option is to bring your vehicle to a car wash. Most car wash locations include a protective coating with their wash solutions. 

Car detailing services may also include waxing of the car’s exterior, which will provide your car with the protection it needs throughout the winter season.

If you’re opposed to using a protective coating and don’t want to spend the money to bring your vehicle to a car wash, wash your car yourself every 10 days. 

Frequent washes will remove any corrosive slush attached to the exterior. This process is best completed on days when the temperature is 40 degrees or higher during daylight hours — this way the water won’t freeze on your vehicle.

Care for Your Car’s Interior

Much like how snow and road salt affect the exterior of your car, it can also lead to interior damage. Tracking in snow and salt from the bottom of your shoes can stain your interior. Worse yet, it can seep through the floor, causing it to mold or rust.

Use rubber floor mats instead of your regular carpet mats to prevent this. If rubber floor mats aren’t accessible, make sure to knock off any salt or debris attached to your shoes before settling into your seat. Vacuum your interior immediately once you arrive home if you notice salt on your car’s interior floor mats.

Top Off All Fluids

One of the most overlooked winter vehicle tips is replacing your windshield wiper fluid with a winterized blend.

Although this won’t prevent your wiper fluid from freezing once the snow begins to fall, it’s great for melting ice due to its antifreeze properties. It’ll save you lots of energy in the future if a layer of ice happens to be coating your windshield.

Put Together an Emergency Kit

One of the worst situations imaginable is your vehicle breaking down even after taking all the precautions. Be prepared and keep an emergency kit in your car. This kit can include items such as:

  • Jumper cables
  • Blankets
  • Portable phone charger
  • Non-perishable snacks (nuts, granola bars, etc.)
  • Water

Create your winter emergency car kit before snow coats the ground so you’re ready from day one. 

Consider a Car Built for Snow

Individuals living in the northernmost part of the country may want to consider purchasing a vehicle built for snow.

Most manufacturers release cars that are specifically engineered with the winter season in mind. 

The best cars for driving in the winter can be broken down into three categories:

  • Country
  • Suburban
  • City

Country

Drivers in rural areas will likely require a vehicle that can handle a rough ride. Rural areas typically are plowed less frequently, allowing snow and ice to layer as the winter progresses.

2020 Jeep Wrangler – $28,295 MSRP

The Jeep Wrangler is one of the most trusted, heavy-duty vehicles when it comes to rough terrains. It has a consumer rating of 4.6 out of 5 and an expert rating of 4.4 out of 5 on Kelley Blue Book.

2020 Subaru Outback – $26,645 MSRP

Subaru vehicles have always been known for their ability to handle wet conditions. The Outback has a consumer rating of 4 out of 5 and an expert rating of 4.6 out of 5 on Kelley Blue Book.

2020 Land Rover Discovery – $52,300 MSRP

There’s a reason why the Land Rover Discovery is the most expensive of the three previous cars listed. It can handle much more than just winter conditions — the Land Rover Discovery can make it across a small river! It has a consumer rating of 4.3 out of 5 and an expert rating of 3.9 out of 5 on Kelley Blue Book.

Suburban

Suburban drivers typically drive less heavy-duty vehicles. However, many require a vehicle that will be able to handle their family’s daily life and keeps them safe throughout the winter. 

2020 Honda CR-V – $25,150 MSRP

Despite being a compact SUV, the Honda CR-V still offers enough space for the average family and is strong enough to withstand a couple of feet of snow. It has a four-cylinder engine with a 28-MPG fuel efficiency rating. It has a consumer rating of 4.2 out of 5 and an expert rating of 4.8 out of 5 on Kelley Blue Book.

2020 Volkswagen Atlas– $30,545 MSRP

The Volkswagen Atlas V6 is a mid-sized SUV. It excels in safety and has an all-wheel-drive (AWD) option for snowy environments. It has a consumer rating of 4.1 out of 5  and an expert rating of 4.4 out of 5 on Kelley Blue Book.

2020 Volvo XC60 – $40,150 MSRP

The Volvo XC60 also has amazing scores when it comes to safety ratings. It’s marketed as a powerful vehicle that retains style, space, and luxurious features. It has a consumer rating of 3.8 out of 5 and an expert rating of 4.3 out of 5 on Kelley Blue Book.

City

Urban drivers require cars that are easy to park and have great fuel efficiency. Drivers in places like New York City need a vehicle that can make it through poor road conditions, as not all roads are plowed on time in such large cities.

2020 Mazda CX-3 – $20,640 MSRP

The Mazda CX-3 is an affordable subcompact SUV that gets 29 MPG in the city and 34 MPG on the highway. It has a consumer rating of 4.6 out of 5 and an expert rating of 4.2 out of 5 on Kelley Blue Book.

2020 Audi A4 – $37,400 MSRP

The Audi A4 is known for being a luxury sedan that can seat up to five people. It’s great for driving in snow and other winter conditions. It has a consumer rating of 4.6 out of 5 and an expert rating of 4.7 out of 5 on Kelley Blue Book.

2020 Tesla Model S – $79,990 MSRP

As the first electric vehicle on this list, the Tesla Model S stands out from the rest by providing amazing luxury features and a decent driving range on a single charge. It has AWD and amazing torque to tread through harsh winter terrains. However, it’s important to note that cold weather decreases the Model S’ driving range. It has a consumer rating of 4.9 out of 5 on Kelley Blue Book.

Make Sure to DriveSmart

The type of car you drive or the precautions you take will mean nothing in the end if you’re not driving safely.

Driving in the winter can be extremely dangerous, and each year thousands of accidents occur during snowy weather.

Always drive slower on roads covered in snow or ice. If necessary, keep your hazard lights on to let drivers around you know you’re taking great precautions while driving. 

We’ll never truly be able to eliminate all winter accidents, but those who drive smart will definitely make a difference.

(Editor’s note: This article was originally published in September 2018 and was recently updated.)

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