Properly preparing your vehicle for winter is extremely necessary if you plan to do some traveling in the more frigid areas of the world and want to avoid Donner party* style escapades. Making sure your engine antifreeze is properly prepared, having the right oil and checking your tires amongst other things can all help ensure your winter trip does not end prematurely. We are going to go through these most important steps you can take to winterize your car properly.
1. Choose and prepare your engine antifreeze correctly.
Making sure your engine antifreeze is of the right variety can be tricky under normal circumstances, in freezing temperatures it does not get any easier. How often you flush your coolant, and the additives you prefer will normally guide your decision making, in winter there are a slightly different set of parameters. Check your owner’s manual for the recommended mix to deal with below freezing temperatures. Ensuring you have the correct mix of distilled water to antifreeze (usually around 50/50) is important to prevent both freezing and boiling over. Pressure testing the cooling system can also avoid catastrophic problems down the road.
You will also want to make sure your windshield fluid also contains some antifreeze to avoid issues with visibility.
2. Change your oil and make sure you are using the right type.
This is even more important if you have an older engine. It is recommended you use 5W-30 since it can flow better in freezing temperatures. If not your oil will be prone to thickening and will cost you a lot in energy needed to turn the crankshaft. Some specially made synthetic oils may be even better for the task.
3. Have the correct tires.
You would not go out in the cold in an improper state of dress, so why should you expect your vehicle to? Proper inflation and tread depth are essential if you want to come back from the icy roads unscathed. Some locations will require vehicles to carry chains on them. Ensure you know the rules of the road where you are going and what’s required of you. I recommend you practice fitting chains before you go – there is nothing worse than trying to apply them to your tires while your hands go numb from the cold.
4wd is also your friend when it comes to traction.
*If you do not know what happened to the Donner party go ahead and look it up, I just wouldn’t recommend it for the squeamish.