Is your car ready for winter?

Published 8:40 am Friday, October 8, 2010

Preparing cars for winter, especially in winter climates, is essential to insure a safe driving season. Photo courtesy of ARA Content


In many parts of the country, including Austin, winter can test even the most seasoned driver’s skills with sudden road and weather changes. In ideal circumstances you have warning of what Old Man Winter might bring for the day, but many times wet roads can become icy and a few flurries can become a snowstorm without any warning at all.

While you can’t avoid unforeseeable weather changes, you can make sure your car is maintained and ready for winter driving. From using a radiator coolant additive to carrying an emergency breakdown kit in your trunk, here are some tips to prepare your vehicle for winter driving:

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Check your battery

Instead of landing on your “I Forgot” list, put this one at the top. Make sure your battery posts and connections are free of corrosion and that the battery has the water it needs. If your battery is older than three years, have a certified repair shop test its ability to hold a charge.

Belts and hoses

When you’re having your vehicle serviced, make the mechanic checks the belts and hoses for wear and tear, regardless of the age of your car. Cold weather can also affect the belts and hoses of a modern car, so an inspection can’t hurt.

Have the right antifreeze

You will want to aim for a 50-50 mix of antifreeze (coolant) and water inside your radiator. This prevents the mixture from freezing at extremely cold temperatures. Or try using a coolant additive like Royal Purple’s Purple Ice that is a high performance, synthetic, radiator coolant additive. Royal Purple recommends a minimum of 20 percent antifreeze concentration be used in street-driven vehicles because Purple Ice has no effect on the boiling and/or freezing point of water. Learn more at

Check your four-wheel drive

If your vehicle has four-wheel drive, you probably haven’t used it during the summer, so it’s good idea to check the status of your four-wheel drive system. Make sure the system engages and disengages easily and that all the drivers of the vehicle know how and when to use the system.

Get an oil change

When you’re getting your vehicle ready for winter, change the oil using the right viscosity for your vehicle for the time of year. Conventional oil tends to thicken as it gets colder, and if too thick, it won’t properly lubricate your engine. Check your owner’s manual for guidance about which oil to use in different climates and temperatures. Another alternative is to use a synthetic blend or full synthetic motor oil like Royal Purple that will extend the time between oil changes, saving you money and having less impact on the environment.

Emergency preparedness

If you know you’re going to be on the road during the winter months, make sure you have an emergency kit in your trunk. Items you should include in your kit are: a blanket, boots, gloves and warm clothes, water and food including hard candy, ice scraper, small shovel, jumper cables, tool kit, tire chains, tire gauge, spare tire (ready to be used), tire changing equipment, first aid kit, paper towels and abrasive material such as non-clumping cat litter or sand to provide traction in the snow. With a little preparation, you can ensure you vehicle doesn’t leave you out in the cold this winter.