When autumn leaves turn and begin to fall, it’s a sure sign that it’s time to prepare our cars for winter driving. If you follow these winter car tips, you should be ready for whatever the wintry weather brings.

Mechanical and engine preparation

The first thing you should check out to prepare your car for winter driving is the battery. To be proactive, stop by an auto parts store and ask them to check out your battery. They can hook it up and test it on the spot, for free in most cases. Also, clean off any corrosion after first disconnecting the cables, beginning with the negative first. Use an old toothbrush and a tablespoon of baking soda mixed with a cup of hot water and gently put on the terminals. Wipe clean with a dry rag, then apply a dab of petroleum jelly to help protect them from getting corroded again. Or you can pour a can of cola over the terminals. Once finished, replace the terminals beginning with the positive this time.

Next, check your belts and hoses for any signs of wear, cracks or fraying, and of course, leaks. Another winter car tip is to pay attention to your brakes. Are they squeaking, or worse, grinding? Then promptly replace them. In icy weather, your brakes need to be in tip-top shape. While you’re at it, check the brake fluid to be sure you have a proper amount.

Besides the brake fluid, you should also check the oil. If you are due for an oil change, take care of that before winter sets in. Of course, you need to make sure you have that all-important winter fluid at the desired level. Of course, that fluid is antifreeze. Make sure you have enough and that you have the right kind for your conditions. 

You should also make it a habit, particularly in winter, to keep your gas tank at least half full. Gas if low can freeze in low temperatures. Also, you could get stuck somewhere and you definitely don’t want to run out of gas before being able to get free or rescued.

Make certain you have enough windshield wiper fluid, too. Nothing is worse than driving down the highway with a filthy windshield and no cleaning fluid. Next, while prepping your car for winter you should look closely at your windshield wipers. If they have any signs of wear or are a cheaper pair, consider buying newer ones that are more protected in winter temps. 

Check out the exterior of the car for winter prepping

You don’t want to forget about the outside of the car while preparing your car for winter driving. Begin with your base; your tires. Make certain they have plenty of tread and show no signs of wear. Consider buying winter tires, even though they can be pricey. Make certain the tires are properly inflated. Colder temps can lower the air pressure in your tires, making slipping and sliding a stronger possibility.

Take a look at your headlights and taillights. Are the bulbs strong enough? Do you need to clean off gunk or residue? Make certain your lights help you see well, and help you be seen, too. Upgrading to better, newer ones may be a good idea if you have an older vehicle.

Now grab some lubricant and get to work on all the areas of the car that are vulnerable to freezing up as part of preparing your car for winter. This would include the door locks, the window tracks and weatherproofing around the door and windows. Don’t forget the door edges, hood and trunk as well. These can become lodged and stubborn in lower temperatures.

Winter tips for the inside of your car

Now you can move on to the car’s interior in your winterizing prep. Make sure your heater is operating properly, as you don’t want to be shivering all winter. Change out the cabin air filter to help the airflow and improve air quality. You can find this at your local auto parts shop. Many people opt to have the entire heating system flushed out at the start of colder weather.

Have your floor mats in place, or replaced if necessary and make sure you have a good scraper/brush in your vehicle at all times. Be certain it will allow you to reach everything, especially if you own a truck or SUV.

It’s always a good idea, year-round, to have a simple set of tools, a crank flashlight and a set of jumper cables with you. A travel first aid kit is smart, too. For winter, you should add a survival kit containing some non-perishable food, bottled water, and a blanket. You should also consider having road flares, an extra phone charger that always stays in your car and a small LED flashlight. 

In case you get stuck in snow, have a small foldable shovel in your trunk, along with some kitty litter to help you get traction in such a situation.

If you live anywhere that heavy snow is a real possibility, or frigid temperatures are likely, you can have a small safe heat source on hand. It can be as simple as a tin can, a lighter and a candle. If you are stuck for an extended period, you won’t want to run out of gas to keep running the heater, and this will give you some surprisingly warm back-up heat.

The key to winter driving is preparation. By planning ahead for problems, you can head off most of them.