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Winterizing Your Car: 4 Things to Know

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Many things can cause damage to a car, from accidents to wear and tear, and related costs can add up over the years. Winter weather is another potentially costly factor for car owners depending on where they live.

“If you live in Miami, you don’t have to winterize your car,” says Jenn Jones, LendingTree autos expert. “But you should take steps to protect your car if you live in, or plan to visit, a wintry location. Doing so can ultimately save you a lot of trouble, preventing you from being stranded in the cold and saving your wallet from dealing with a car that’s aging prematurely.”

Here are four tips to help your car weather the colder months.

4 tips for winterizing your car

No. 1: Check that vital systems are working properly

Some systems are more prone to cold weather wear and tear than others, so it’s useful to target those first if you’re going to make it through the next several months unscathed.

Car batteries lose power in the cold,” Jones says. “Check that yours is retaining power well — you can ask an auto parts store to do it for you. If you need a new one, make sure the battery’s cold cranking amps (CCA), which is its startup power rating, are high enough for your vehicle and the weather. The higher the number, the more powerful it is.”

She also suggests checking that your window defrosters are in good working order. After all, no one likes scraping ice and snow off windows.

No. 2: Consider replacing or topping off weather-sensitive parts and systems

Maintenance is just one of the many costs of owning a car, but it’s especially important as winter approaches. Again, some parts and systems of your vehicle — like tires and windshield wipers — may have winter-friendly alternatives you may want to consider purchasing. And topping off your antifreeze and washer fluid can help prevent ice from freezing on your windshield, which could cause potentially unsafe driving conditions.

But you don’t necessarily have to spend a ton of money to winterize your car’s replaceable parts and systems. For example, Jones notes that diligently maintaining your tire pressure, using tire chains, using a battery charger and getting a refurbished car battery rather than a new one can be low-cost options. Giving your vehicle a quick wash and wax will also help prevent, or at least minimize, damage caused by winter weather without spending too much.

No. 3: Get a professional’s opinion

If you aren’t sure what parts may need replacing, or you haven’t had a professional look over your car in a while, now’s a great time to get that kind of insight. After all, you don’t want to end up in a situation where you’re stranded during a winter storm.

Consider having a mechanic give your car a general health check to ensure that everything from your brakes to your all-wheel drive (AWD) or four-wheel drive (4WD) are good to go,” Jones says.

No. 4: Prepare for winter emergencies

Despite our best efforts, emergencies can still happen. It’s always a good idea to prepare for that by putting together an emergency kit for your car. That way, if you get stranded, you’ll be able to keep yourself safe and maybe even solve the problem yourself.

Here are some items to consider adding to your emergency kit:

  • A first-aid kit
  • Blankets
  • Warm clothes
  • A flashlight
  • Flares
  • Matches
  • Nonperishable food and drinks
  • Jumper cables
  • Extra antifreeze
  • Common car tools
  • A charged, external phone battery (and charging cord)

If you live in a particularly snowy area, or plan on visiting one this year, Jones suggests adding a shovel and a bag of sand or cat litter to your kit since it could help you get out of a snowy situation.

 

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