How To Prepare Your Car For Winter

By Grigore Spac
Updated December 23, 2020
How To Prepare Your Car For Winter

Every responsible car owner should be able to properly prepare his car for the cold. It is necessary to check the technical condition of the car and complete a number of basic maintenance measures.


First of all, replace your car tyres to winter ones, as they contain more natural rubber than regular tyres which allow them to stay flexible as temperatures drop below 7 degrees C in conditions where a normal tyre becomes hard and has less grip. It is better to do this in advance, before the onset of the first frost and to avoid giant queues at the local garages. Before replacing the tyres, carefully inspect each of them for cracks and other signs of severe wear. If the tyres are ok inflate them to te right presure and move on to the next step.


In cold weather, the load on the battery increases because it suffers from cold temperatures which reduces its output. So it is a good idea to check it. Measure the voltage, make sure there is a sufficient amount of electrolyte (refers just to those batteries designed to be opened), inspect the wires and terminals for external damage and oxidized elements. If necessary, it is better to replace the old battery with a new one.

Engine coolant

You need to make sure you have a 50/50 mixture of water and antifreeze to prevent the fluid from freezing and to protect your engine down to -34C. Check the ratio using a testing kit, which you can get at any auto parts store, and fill the right mixture up to the maximum line. Check your service schedule and make sure you use the right type of coolant because  some of them needs to be changed every two years.


Check that all lights, reflectors and indicators are clean. After that make sure that all the bulbs are working properly. As well make sure that number plates are clean, to avoid penalties.

You should keep your windscreen and all other windows clean. It is recommended not to leave the wipers on auto when you park up the car. If the blades freeze to the windscreen, when you turn the ignition on they can start and could damage the blades or scratch the windscreen.

A very important thing: DO NOT pour hot water over the windows if these are frozen. The thermal shock can crack the window and lead to an expensive bill for replacing. To defrost the windows it is recommended to keep a bottle of de-icer in your car.

Because winter weather is often wet, this brings out a lot of dirt and road salt. So you have to make sure your wipers are in good shape and there is an acceptable level of the screen wash. Try to top up with the winter screen wash as it has a lower freezing temperature than summer screen wash or water alone.


 - If the vehicle starts to overheat after a short time, probably that the radiator has frozen. Stop immediately and give the cooling system time to defrost otherwise it can even explode as a result of the mounting pressure. You can use a fan heater and place it in front of the radiator to speed up the defrosting process.
 - If you hear a relentless squealing noise from beneath the bonnet it can suggest that your car’s water pump has frozen.

Other important things

 - Check the oil level and top up if necessary. For the type of oil you need to use, refer to your owner’s handbook or speak to a local dealer. 
 - Try to  have at least a quarter of a tank of fuel in case of an unexpected delay during your journey.
 - Allow extra time for winter journeys.
 - Give yourself an extra 10 minutes, to have time to de-ice the car.
 - Plan your journey to favour main roads, which are more likely to be cleared.
 - Have a winter car emergency kit.

If your car is due a service, of course it is better to get it done before winter. Moreover you can take advantage of the free or discounted "winter car checks" offered by some garages.