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How to Winterize Your Car On a Budget

By Autolist Staff | February 5, 2019

Winter can be a difficult time for both driver and car alike. Freezing cold temperatures can be hard on your engine and its components, while salty roads can wreak havoc on your vehicle’s undercarriage. Then there’s the ice, sleet and snow that can make driving difficult. Because of all these difficulties, it's incredibly important to make sure that your vehicle is ready to take on winter. The good news is that you don't necessarily have to spend a lot of money to winterize your car.

Winterize Car Tips for Less than $15

Start with a simple inspection that you can perform yourself. It doesn't have to be complicated: simply wash your car by hand and take notice of any body damage or other issues that might be exacerbated by cold and wet weather.

Tires

Another cheap inspection procedure is to check out the remaining tread on your tires. The easiest way to do this is by using the penny test. Take a penny and insert it into your tire groove with Lincoln's head upside down and facing towards you. If you can see the entire head, then your tires are worn and should be replaced. As long as some of the head is covered with the tire groove, your tread should be ok. Worn tread is dangerous on slick roads as it doesn't provide the same grip and it can lead to dangerous results when braking.

It's also important to remember that cold temperatures causes a drop in tire pressure. With this in mind, head to a filling station and make sure your tires are properly filled. Check your tires, owner's manual or the sticker on your driver's side door to find the recommended tire pressure. Again, low-pressure tires don't grip the road as well as those that are properly filled.

Battery

Next up, check your battery for any green fuzz around your battery terminals. This is a sign of corrosion. Use a wire brush and baking soda to remove it to ensure your terminals to get a proper connection.

Paint Protection

For vehicles parked outdoors, winter weather can be especially harsh. It can dull your car's paint and cause oxidation to set in. Prevent this by giving your car a good wax job. You can usually get wax at an auto parts store for under $15 if you want to do it yourself. A professional wax job can cost upwards of $50. To help prevent freezing and squeaking of door hinges and locks, use WD-40 to lubricate these parts. When driving in extreme cold, it's also a good idea to replace your regular windshield wiper fluid with a winter blend to help your visibility.

Winterize Car Tips for Less than $25

Windshield Wipers

Does your budget allow for a little more? Then consider checking out your windshield wipers. If they're streaking, scraping or missing spots, they probably need to be replaced. If you inspect them and find tears or missing pieces of rubber, they definitely need to be replaced. You can even get wiper blades specifically made for winter weather.

Headlights

Take a look at your headlights and notice whether they're cloudy or dirty. Cloudy lenses don't just look bad, they can reduce the brightness of your headlights by as much as 80 percent. It's hard enough to see in driving rain or snow in the dark much less with foggy headlights. Grab a restoration kit online or off of Amazon for less than $25.

Winterize Car Tips for less than $55

If your budget goes even further, there are a few more tips you can use to winterize your car.

Air Filter

If your vehicle is an off-roading vehicle and you spend more time doing that during in the warmer months, then you may need to change your air filter going into winter. Even if you drive a lot of dusty roads in a passenger car, you still may need to change your air filter. Air filters are usually easy to check on most vehicles and they're also usually easy to replace. If you're uncertain about the procedure to replace your air filter, you should err on the side of caution and have a professional do it.

Emergency Kit

Another great idea during the winter is to have your car equipped with an emergency kit. This kit should contain items such as jumper cables, a shovel, ice scraper, flashlight, flares, extra batteries, blanket, hat and gloves and portable cell phone charger. It's also not a bad idea to have extra water in your car as well. Make sure to add the relevant emergency numbers to your phone ahead of time. These tools can literally be a life saver if you run into trouble and you’re out of cell service.

Additional Considerations

Vehicle Type

If you're thinking about making the ultimate winter preparation and getting a new vehicle, it's important to know that some vehicles definitely navigate winter weather conditions better than others. Four-wheel and all-wheel drive vehicles are definitely at the top of the list of vehicles that can handle winter weather. Newer crossovers and SUVs have on-demand systems that send power to the appropriate wheels as needed in reduced traction situations. One thing to remember if you're considering an AWD car vs. an SUV or crossover is that the latter two vehicles have more ground clearance. Even AWD cars may have difficulty traversing heavy snow as they don't have the ground clearance. Cars typically have about four to six inches of ground clearance while SUVs usually have between six and eight; some even have a height-adjustable suspension.

Tires for Winter Weather

If getting a new vehicle isn't on your list, then you might consider investing in snow tires. Tires made for winter weather have special rubber compounds to make them more pliable in cold temperatures as well as edges that grip the road in snow and ice. Studded snow tires take this one step further by using metal studs in the tread for extra traction, though most states prohibit the use of these during the summer months since they wear down road surfaces. Another version of winter tires is known as all-weather tires and these can be driven all year around, but they aren't as effective in heavy snow conditions. They tend to be the best for those who live in low to moderate snow areas.

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