We won't lie: We wish every day could be a snow day, especially during the holiday season when the snow is falling in thick, white layers on the ground. Unfortunately, life must go on even in the depth of winter, and it's best to make sure your car is in tip-top shape before facing the cold, icy streets. Here are a few things to double check before you hit the road:
All-season tires work for many folks, but some are too wide and low to be safe for use in the snow. Deep grooves will help you get through the snow (and keep you from sliding), so consider looking for a pair of winter tires to give you a hand when the ground is covered.
A little-known fact about wiper blades: They're usually only good for one year. Even if yours are in prime condition, you may want to switch to winter blades that are built to handle the weight of snow and ice and don't have external springs that can freeze up. If you park outside, make sure to pop them up after you park the car; it will make scraping your windshield much easier and will prevent them from freezing directly to the window.
Contrary to popular belief, you don't need to change your antifreeze each winter before the first freeze. Most antifreeze is good for quite a long time, so you're probably fine as long as you are up to date on your regular car maintenance. The only time you need to think about refilling it? If you live in a particularly frigid climate – even antifreeze will turn to ice eventually.
Ice can easily coat your head lamps, making it even more difficult to drive in snowy gloom. Every few weeks, apply a protective layer of wax. It will help the snow slide right off!
Winter is more stressful on your car battery than the mild seasons, so you'll want to make sure it's in good condition before the temperature drops too low. Most repair shops perform relatively cheap load tests, and some will even do it for free. If yours is in sub-par condition, you'll definitely want to replace it before winter officially begins.
Keeping the exterior of your car clean is especially important in the winter, as salt and moisture can cause rust and corrosion. A thin layer of ice can also form over your windows, making it very difficult to see. Just as you did with your head lamps, give your car a good waxing every once in awhile. You will likely need to wash it more in the winter as well, as dried snow can leave some unsightly grime all over the paint.
Cold temperatures can cause oil to thicken, so it might be necessary to pick one with a lower viscosity in the winter. When oil is too thick, it won't coat your engine properly, causing permanent damage. Oil is luckily quite easy to change yourself, so keep some in your garage wall cabinets just in case you need to service your car on the fly.
Inside the car, be sure to keep a spare pair of extra warm gloves, an ice scraper, tire chains and kitty litter (yes, kitty litter – it can be poured under tires to help you drive off of slick ice). A couple extras that are good to have around in case of an emergency are a space blanket, a lighter and a whistle.