How to Prepare Your Car for Winter

pine tree covered with frost

Cold weather, snow, ice and salted roads are on their way. If you’re a driver in the Boston area, you know the struggle of driving in the snow. But if you take time to learn how to prep your car for cold weather, you can maintain your vehicle and feel a bit more comfortable when traveling in the snow.

So what do you have to do to winterize a car? Consider the steps below to help you feel safer on your winter journeys.


Start with what gives you traction and moves you through the snow — your tires. Freezing temperatures, like those that impact Boston, affect your tire pressure. If you’ve ever gotten up on a cold winter morning, started your car and had the low tire pressure light click on, it’s likely because of the weather. While your tire pressure may return to normal as you drive and the friction heats your tires, you still need to maintain the pressure.

Ideally, you should check the pressure in your tires once a week, especially if you’ve been or will be driving in the snow. That’ll give you peace of mind and let you begin your winter travel without worrying about your tires.


If your car still displays a low pressure warning after driving for a bit, you need to fill your tires. Regular tire checks will let you know when to add air to your tires before these warning lights come on. But no matter what warns you, you’ll want to keep your tires filled. Having the right pressure helps maintain your gas mileage and the tread on your tires.

The pound per square inch (PSI) amount you fill your tires to will depend on the make and model of your vehicle and the type of tires you have. Your owner’s manual or a sticker on the door jamb will tell you how much air to add. If you notice your tires don’t maintain their pressure even after filling them, check them for holes, nails and damage.


You’ve probably heard about the penny test to check your tire tread. You put a penny between the treads with Abe Lincoln’s head pointing down. The tire tread should reach the top of his head, and that typically meant your tire treads were good. But before you dig through your change for a penny, know that this test isn’t accurate anymore.

The penny test measured your tire’s tread to 2/32 of an inch, but the new standard suggests 4/32 of an inch tread. So how do you measure that? Use a quarter instead of a penny. Flip the larger coin as you would the penny, with George Washington’s head pointing down between the treads. If your tire goes up to the president’s head, your tire tread is good. If your treads are low or you notice other damage, it may be time for new tires.


Drivers who need new tires or want to make winter driving safer should consider getting snow tires. This is the best way to winterize tires because you’ll get more traction for hills or poor-quality roads. If you’re thinking about skipping the snow tires in favor of new all-season tires, consider this. Some experts say that all-season tires at their best are as good as half-worn snow tires. What makes snow tires that much better? They offer:

  • Superior tread patterns
  • A design for traction on ice and snow
  • Improved grip with soft rubber compounds
  • A design that helps them last through the cold

You may see these tires called winter tires for their ability to perform best in ice and cold in addition to snow. No matter what you call them, they’re a great way to winterize a car.


How to Prepare Your Car for Winter

Checking your car’s fluids is a good practice for every season, but you definitely should in the winter. Change your oil or have it changed every three months or so, regardless of the season. This will depend on your car and how often you drive, ranging from every 3,000 miles to 15,000 miles between services.

Antifreeze is also essential to check because it prevents your car’s system from freezing. Check if your coolant is to the full line and add either a 50/50 mix of coolant and water or pre-mixed antifreeze.

While you’re under the hood, check other fluids like your windshield washer fluid. Winter roads tend to kick up salt and mud. By having your windshield washer fluid full, you know you won’t end up pulling over to clean a dirty windshield by hand.


If you do need to change or fill your windshield wiper fluid, go with a winter formula. Winter windshield washer fluids often contain antifreeze to keep them from freezing in cold winter temperatures. Check the rating on your winter formula because certain ones could still freeze if it gets cold enough, especially in rough Boston winters.


While we’re on the subject of windshields, check the state of your windshield wipers. Change them about every six months to a year, depending on their condition and how often you use them. If you’ve noticed streaks, loud squeaking or poor visibility after using your wipers, it’s time for new ones. You should also take a look at the rubber on the blades, checking for cracked, split or broken pieces.


Making sure the heater in your car works keeps you comfortable and safe. Your heater and defroster will clear your windshield, windows and rear window of frost to give you better visibility as you drive. You’ll also want to maintain a warmer temperature for your car instead of letting it sit in the cold too long. Fluids thicken and your battery could die, all from the cold.


Getting your breaks serviced before the winter season helps you feel safer when driving in the snow. You’ll also want to get them checked mid-season, once or twice, depending on how often you use your car. Winter travel puts strain on your brakes as you use them. Moisture in the winter, freezing and unfreezing and road salt contribute to wear and tear.

Rust spots may show up in your rotors, and your brake fluids could become dirty in the winter, as well. When you have your brakes inspected, checking the brake fluid and getting a fresh formula for the winter could help maintain this essential system.


How to Prepare Your Car for Winter

You definitely don’t want to get stranded somewhere with a dead battery. You could ask a kind stranger for a jump start or carry a portable jump starter. But if a bit of maintenance can save you the trouble, it’s worth it. Follow these steps to check your battery before you get to winter driving:

  • Look for cracks, oozing or corrosion at the top of the battery case.
  • Check that the posts and connections are free of corrosion.
  • Check the water level in your battery.
  • Make sure the brackets hold your battery firmly and aren’t corroded.
  • Have a certified shop test how your battery holds a charge if it’s more than three years old.


Even with these precautions, expect the unexpected and be prepared. When you winterize your car, think about what you could need in an emergency and pack a kit. What you pack will depend on how much room you have to store your emergency kit and how prepared you like to be. You should at least pack some of these items:

  • Jumper cables or a portable jump starter
  • Tire chains
  • A blanket or two
  • Flashlights with new batteries
  • A first-aid kit
  • Waterproof or winter gloves
  • Snow boots
  • Pairs of socks
  • Waterproof matches
  • An ice scraper
  • A bag of sand for traction if you get stuck
  • Snacks with a long shelf life
  • A few bottles of water

Check your kit throughout the winter, especially with freezing temperatures. Store your portable jump starter and items with batteries inside as directed, and take them to your car before you drive.


Planning winter travels for the holidays or to escape the cold? Eliminate the stress of airport traffic and parking with Park Shuttle & Fly. Our short-term and long-term parking options at Logan Airport in Boston let you enjoy your travels without worrying about your car. Our lots are secured with fences, cameras and live personnel for your peace of mind. And if the winter weather has left your car a bit messy, add on our detailing services to return from your trip with a fresh, clean car.

Get a quote or book your reservation with Park Shuttle & Fly today and prepare for a stress-free winter getaway.

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