Now that fall has arrived, it’s an excellent time to check your vehicle’s manual for regularly scheduled maintenance. Winter car prep tasks include oil changes, coolant flush and refill, and cleaning or replacing air and fuel filters.
While you’re at it, have a technician check the condition of radiator hoses, drive belts, and oil and transmission pan gaskets. A dealership can also perform any new flash updates to the vehicle’s onboard computers.
That’s basic year-round stuff. But it’s also wise to begin preparing for winter—well before the mercury drops. Use this handy checklist with links to other helpful articles to ensure maximum safety and performance during the coldest winter months.
The Eight Steps for Winter Car Prep
Have a certified technician check the battery or replace a battery that is more than two years old. Keeping the battery terminals, cables, and surface clean will ensure maximum life. Also, make sure that the battery carrier is in good condition since vibration reduces battery life.
2. Wiper Blades
A leaking exhaust system can have deadly consequences in the winter when vehicle occupants keep the windows closed. Put the car on a lift and check for corrosion, worn-out exhaust hangers, and the condition of the catalytic converter. Corroded tubing not only leaks fumes into the vehicle, but can also restrict airflow through the engine, robbing it of power.
Since winter driving often involves low-light conditions, winter car prep requires looking at your headlamps and tail lamps. Use lens cleaner on dirty or fogged lenses that might be reducing the amount of light coming out of the fixtures. See: “A Headlight Restoration Kit Brings Back Brilliant, Clear Lights.”
Check your tires for signs of wear, including uneven tread wear which could indicate that your wheels are out of alignment. Stick a penny in the treads: If you can see the top of Lincoln’s head, it’s time for new tires.
Check tire inflation every two weeks using recommended tire pressures found on the sticker inside the driver’s side door jamb. While all-season tires provide adequate traction in most winter conditions, winter tires are compounded to stay soft in freezing temperatures, offering the best traction on ice and snow.
If your brakes are squealing, the audible sensor is probably warning you that the pads or shoes need replacing. Inspect the brake rotors for warping or scoring. Some rotors can be machined, but if there is too much wear, the fix is a total replacement.
Brake lines can get corroded from road salt. Since the braking system is hydraulic, any hole in the lines will affect the vehicle’s ability to stop. Flush and refill the braking system according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
7. Fuel Lines
When the temperature drops below freezing, add a bottle of fuel line de-icer to prevent moisture from freezing in the fuel lines.
8. Emergency Kit
This post contains affiliate links and ClassicCars.com may be compensated if you make a purchase through these links.