Prep Your Car For Winter: 5 Easy Tips

By | November 2, 2010

Car covered in snow

Winter is just around the corner and that means cold days and freaking chilly nights. And while you get to stay in a nice warm place at home or work, your car is going to be stuck in a cold garage or worse- a freezing parking spot outside.

And with this change in temperature come a change in the way you should be caring for you car during the winter months. If you value your ride and don’t want to pay for expensive repair bills or replacement parts down the road, follow these five easy tips for getting your car ready for winter:

1. Oil Changes: Hopefully most people know the immense value of changing your car’s oil on a regular basis. This is the most basic and essential element to prolonging the life of the engine and takes very little effort to change it yourself and even less effort to have someone else do it for you. What many don’t know, however, is that when temperatures get lower, the type of oil you put in your car changes.

A typical car in the summer generally uses 10W-30 type oil. This number refers to viscosity of the oil and how resistant it is to flow. Over the winter, this same car should drop down to a 5w-30 oil. As the  number shows, the viscosity of the oil is significantly less, making it not as stiff and thick in colder weather and allowing for it to get to the correct operating temperature quicker.

5W-30 Oil

Adding Lucas Stabilizer to every oil change is a great way to make up for┬áthe lost viscosity while not compromising the benefits of 5W-30 oil. Lucas Stabilizershould generally make up about 10%-25% of your engine’s new oil. It’s a bit pricey, but trust us, it’s worth it.

2. Fluid Checks: Probably the most simple and fastest way to make sure your car is running in tip top shape for the winter is performing a quick fluid check. Scan your engine coolant, brake fluid, power steering fluid, washer fluid, transmission fluid, and oil levels on a regular basis. If needed, add till full…duh. And while this may be basic info for some of you, DO NOT fill your coolant reservoir with water- fill it with anti-freeze.

3. Starting Temperature: The very worst thing you can do for your car- well, besides carlashes- is start the car when it’s really cold and then proceed to immediately rev the motor hard until it’s warm. If you’ve ever done this, even just once, slap your wrist really, really hard.

As mentioned above, it takes some time for oil to get to a standard operating temperature. If the engine is cold, odds are the oil is cold. And cold oil doesn’t do the job nearly as well as hot oil. Revving the engine to “warm it up” poses a massive risk to dry, non-lubricated cylinder block walls and piston rings. Snapping a ring or scarring the walls is about the same price as a full night alone with Jennifer Aniston (or Morgan Freeman for the ladies- that’s who they like, right?).

We recommend letting your car sit in idle for no less than 60 seconds as the oil gets warmer. Once warm, don’t drive the car very hard. The transmission and its fluid need to warm up as well, just like the motor. Another 60 seconds of easy driving should be enough time to get your tranny to a working temperature.

4. Winter Tires: If you live somewhere that is known for lots of snow, consider picking up a set of winter tires. When the roads get covered in snow and ice, these will make all the difference. Even a rear-wheel drive cars boast a very noticeable increase in control with a set winter tires.

On a side note, don’t buy silly all-season tires. All-seasons are great for a place that gets just a little tiny bit of every type of weather. If you live somewhere that gets a hell of a lot of everything- sun, rain, snow, etc- then all-season tires are a joke. Save yourself time and trouble and go buy a good set of winter tires for the winter and street tires for the summer.

5. Spark Plugs and Wires: Ok, so maybe this one isn’t just tied to winter but it’s a very important element of car maintenance nonetheless. Make sure your car’s spark plugs aren’t wearing low or corroding. A simple spark plug swap can increase horsepower and give you marginal increases in fuel efficiency.

Spark PlugsIf you opt to swap out your plugs, consider changing the ignition wires as well. These wires are often overlooked and do wear out due to corrosion over time. Replacements are relatively inexpensive and will yield similar results to changing your spark plugs.

So there you have it. Five steps that are pretty simple, especially in comparison to the time it would take to fix a neglected, non-winterized engine. Do you have additional tips? Let us know in the comments below.

[Chad Waite]


AJ on November 2, 2010 at 2:41 pm.

Costco parking lot winter hoonery FTW!

700R4 Transmission on November 14, 2010 at 5:55 am.

Please give me more information. I love it, Thanks again.n

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