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(Best Tips) Get Your Car Ready for Winter Weather

Do you dread driving your car during winter?

You are not alone my friend.

Freezing temperatures reduce visibility, impede friction on the road and lower your vehicle’s performance. It is a terrible period for every driver. However, if you have been wondering how you can get your car ready for winter, you’re in luck. We have all the right tricks and tips to ensure that the next cold season is not all doom and gloom.

We have all faced nerve-wracking situations when the temperatures drop. Sometimes your car may get stuck and fail to make it up the hill or just refuse to start in the morning when you’re getting ready to go to work. With a little pre-planning though, you can kiss such scenarios goodbye.

Here are a few areas to which you should pay attention.

1. Is the cold bad for car batteries?

Although high temperatures will take a bigger toll on your car battery, the effects are likely to manifest during winter. While the heat is responsible for destroying and damaging the battery, the cold only aggravates any existing problems.

But batteries usually require minimal maintenance: You only need to clean the terminals and check whether the water is adequate. However, If your car’s battery is more than 3-5 years old, you may need to visit a repair shop to check the voltage and cranking amperage. Don’t wait until your car refuses to start in the middle of a blizzard.

2. Cold weather and tires.

Leakage is the number one leading cause of tire pressure loss. But during winter, a leak is the not the only thing you should be worried about. Cold weather leads to deflation, too. When the temperature falls, the air inside the tires contracts and reduces in volume thus causing the tires to lose their pressure.

So what is the effect of this decrease?

  • Deflated tires increase the braking distance significantly
  • They can interfere with vehicle steering and handling.
  • Deflated tires wear out much faster and will cost you more money when buying replacements.
  • In extreme cases, the tire may overheat and blow out.
  • Under-inflated tires lead to reduced gas mileage. Since deflating increases the surface of the tire in contact with the road, it increases friction and resistance. That, in turn, results in reduced mileage and increases fuel costs.

Keep an eye on your tire pressure regularly to increase traction especially in the wet, snowy or icy conditions where the traction is jeopardized significantly. Check your manufacturer’s guide to get the recommended tire pressure.

Want to increase traction even more? Consider switching to snow tires.

Apart from pressure, three things affect how your tires grip the road: Tread depth, sipping patterns and hardness of the tire rubber. Winter tires come with deeper tread depths and unique sipping patterns. Having deeper treads reduces snow build up and increases traction. The tires are also made of soft rubber making it easier to adhere to the road surface.

3. Winter driving with worn brakes.

Although you might have the right tires, your vehicle will not be able to stop quickly if your brakes are worn out. Remember an increase in break distance, however slight, might determine whether your car stops early enough to avoid hitting the car in front of you. Your brakes need periodic maintenance to ensure that they function efficiently.

  • How thick are your brake pads?
  • In what condition are your rotor drums?

You need to visit an auto repair shop regularly to have these two things checked by a professional. Any brake pads below the 2mm thickness mark need to be replaced.

4. Coolant/antifreeze

As temperatures continue to drop, a very critical liquid that is essential for the running of your vehicle is bound to get affected. This liquid is referred to as “antifreeze” but is also known as “coolant.” The fluid is responsible for regulating the temperature in your vehicle’s engine and plays a critical role in protecting it from damage.

The coolant is present in your vehicle’s radiator. It moves around the hood in a circular pattern while maintaining a constant temperature for crucial components in the engine. Without the liquid, the engine could easily overheat or crack.

The coolant is driven by a water pump from the radiator into the engine, where it removes the excess heat generated through combustion. Then it passes through the heater core, which supplies heat to your car’s cabin and finally returns to the radiator, where the heat is released.

In normal weather conditions, water alone would be enough to cool the engine. But during winter, when temperatures are low, the water would freeze. That’s where antifreeze comes in. It’s able to cool the engine and at the same time resist freezing. The fluid consists of ethylene glycol and water usually mixed at a ratio of 50:50.

Just like other fluids in your vehicle, the coolant also degrades over time. The liquid may fail to work effectively at some point thus putting your vehicle’s engine at risk. In actual sense, ethylene glycol never wears out. But the corrosion inhibitors ingredients present in the fluid degrade and affect the water pump and engine block.

Fortunately for you, it is easy to spot degraded antifreeze visually.

Spent coolant usually has a rusty or brown color. You should quickly replace your coolant after seeing this color. Ensure that you check the manufacturer’s manual to guide you on how to change or fill the antifreeze.

5. Oil change

You need to change your vehicle’s oil regularly as a preventative measure. Oil is essential for lubricating engine parts and protecting the car from extreme internal heat. It works hand in hand with the coolant to regulate the temperature in the engine.

But not all oils are created equal. Oil can freeze at low temperatures and thin to water consistency in extreme heat. To keep the oil stable under both extreme conditions, plastics are added into it. Different types of oils will have a rating “w.” The higher the rating, the higher the oil’s adaptability to extreme conditions.

During winter, your oil may thicken due to the low temperature and would, therefore, not keep the engine lubricated as efficiently as would be required. Ensure that you choose the type of oil that will have the right viscosity and thickness suitable for freezing temperatures. Check the manufacturer’s manual to guide you on which oil to use in different climates and temperatures.

6. Windshield wiper blades

Do you often have visibility problems every time winter rolls around?

Don’t worry.

There’s a solution to this problem.

Off course, the first thing you should do is replace your windshield wiper blades. You may not be aware of this, but your wiper blades are only effective for about a year. If this time lapses, ensure that you invest in some new ones.

But you shouldn’t stop at that.

Replace the plain water in your windshield washer reservoir with windshield washer fluid, too. Water just won’t cut it, especially during the cold season since it freezes quickly. Additionally, ensure the heater and defroster are working correctly to keep the windshield clear during a blinding storm.

Do you need to warm up your vehicle during winter?

You must have heard this advice from family members, co-workers, friends or even your friendly Mac’s Automotive Service employee. 🙂

You should heat up your car before driving when it’s freezing outside. But whether this practice is useful or not is a matter that is still up to debate. Most experts are divided right in the middle on this issue.

After 1995, the automobile industry abandoned the carburetor and adopted a fuel injection method. With a carburetor, letting your car idle for a while before driving was not a choice but a necessity. With modern cars, the engine does not require any warming up.

Experts who insist on this practice argue that idling for a couple of minutes helps to warm up the oil to ensure that it flows smoothly throughout the vehicle. Those opposed say that the oil only needs a few seconds to heat up, and idling will just waste gas.

So which is it then?

Ultimately, the decision on whether to warm up your car before driving and for how long should be left to the manufacturer. Ensure that you check their manual for recommendations.

Yep, that dusty book in the glove box that we hardly ever reach for.

You should also check with your mechanic if you live in an area where temperatures fall below freezing for extended periods.

Perhaps even a Mac’s Automotive Service shop. Just saying.

How to de-ice your vehicle.

Winter is not all about the cold.

Although the sub-zero temperatures are dangerous on their own, snow and ice accumulations add salt to injury. I’m sure you’re familiar with this scenario: You wake up in the morning to go to work only to find your vehicle wholly covered with piles of snow and ice. How do you deal with such a situation?

Commercial deicing is one solution. A few quick sprays will do the trick, and you can even add some of them in your car’s windshield wiper fluid reservoir. You can also use scrappers. They come in many shapes, sizes and material. Cheap de-icing agents may include water and isopropyl alcohol mixtures. Alcohol has a lower freezing point than water and will melt the ice as it evaporates.

Never force a frozen lock, door or window since you may damage seals, gaskets, motors and other vital things in your vehicle. Don’t create slick spots on the road when wiping snow and ice from your car. Leaving massive sheets of ice on the road can be a potential hazard for other drivers. Be patient. It may take long before you finally remove the final bit of the winter precipitation from your vehicle. Also, pouring water on the ice and snow will do more harm than good. You can crack the glass, burn yourself or damage your vehicle’s paint job.

Can you prevent the icing?

There are a couple of preventative measures you can take as well. For example, you can apply conventional cooking spray to the door handles of your vehicle to prevent them from freezing. You can also stop the ice from accumulating on your windows by spraying your car’s glass exterior with a mixture of vinegar and water in the ratio of 3 to 1.

Cover your locks using refrigerator magnets to create a moisture barrier thus protecting them from freezing.

Sounds crazy, huh? So crazy it works!

7. How do you defog your interior windows?

You have finally managed to get into the car after a long struggle. But you can’t drive to work yet because your windshield is still fogged from the inside. Don’t worry though. There’s a quick fix. You need to exchange the cold, drier air outside with the warm, humid air inside your car’s cabin.

Turning on your car’s heater will not help. In fact, it will aggravate the problem. Turn it off. Set the defrosters temperature to high and open the defrost vent fully. Turn off the recirculation feature and roll down your windows to ensure that the air inside the car is being pushed outside while the air from outside is being pulled inside the vehicles’ cabin. Commercial products may also do the trick.

Want to get your car ready for winter?

Winter will be here soon. In fact, it feels like it’s already here.

You need to prepare your vehicle for the harsh cold conditions. Don’t just sit and wait; be proactive.

At Mac’s Radiator, we provide high-quality, full service, auto repair and maintenance. We are available in a location near you in Portland, Beaverton, Bend, Eugene, Salem and Boise. Call us today and schedule an appointment.



Mac's Radiator is the best mechanic to help you with all of your mechanic needs!  Let Macs help you - we are located in 6 convenient locations, for when you need us close to home, or when you're on the road.




Portland, OR      (503) 777-4706
Beaverton, OR  (503) 646-2943
Bend, OR            (541) 382-6963
Boise, ID            (208) 344-1722
Eugene, OR        (541) 344-0253
Salem, OR          (503) 364-7129

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