Weatherproof Your Wallet: How to Winterize Your Car In 5 Steps


Car repairs can make a big dent in your budget. One way to prevent them is to winterize your vehicle.

And you don’t have to be a mechanic. There are simple preventive measures you can take that will help keep your vehicle on the road and cash in your wallet.

How to Winterize Your Car

These winterizing tips come from Team Clark research and from money expert Clark Howard himself.

Let’s look at some ways you can help keep your vehicle running smoothly in the cold months without busting your budget.

1. Make Sure Your Wiper Blades and Fluid Are in Good Shape

wiper blades and windshield - how to winterize your car

It’s important to keep your wiper fluid reservoir adequately filled. Even though the fluid has an anti-freezing agent in it, it can thicken or freeze if there’s not enough in the tank.

And you want to avoid using your windshield wipers to try to get solid ice off your windshield. That’s a quick way to destroy your wiper blades. Once you’ve got it reduced to slush (with a scraper and your defroster), you can use the wipers to finish off the job.

What you should do:

  • Pop the hood and check the level of your windshield washer reservoir. Add more fluid if it needs filling.
  • Keep an ice scraper in your vehicle to clear that brittle layer of snow and ice off the windshield.
  • Periodically inspect your windshield wiper for tears or other physical signs of wear.

2. Keep Your Battery Fully Charged

Weatherproof your wallet: How to winterize your car

Cold weather is no friend to car batteries, so you want to make sure your battery is operating at its top level.


What you should do:

  • Periodically check the battery’s fluid by taking off the plastic caps on the battery to see where the fluid level is. If it’s low, you can replenish it by adding distilled water. (Tap water can actually hurt your battery’s performance.)
  • Take your car to the nearest auto parts store. Many of them will check your battery for free.
  • If you need to replace your battery, see if the vendor offers a rebate or discount for turning in your old battery.

3. Heat Your Car Properly

Weatherproof your wallet: How to winterize your car

When it’s freezing outside, keeping your car’s interior nice and toasty is a must. Here are some ways you can optimize the heat.

What you should do:

  • When using your defroster, point your car’s heater vents toward the windshield to boost the warm air so that it works quicker. The faster you can defrost your windows, the quicker you can redirect the heat back toward you.
  • Another cool tip? Turn on your AC when defrosting — it works as a dehumidifier. In some newer models, the AC will turn on automatically in defrost mode. See more on this in this Car Talk forum.
  • If you have a later-model vehicle, resist the urge to warm up your car by letting it idle for a while. It’s a waste of time and gas money.

4. Make Sure Your Coolant Is at the Correct Level

Weatherproof your wallet: How to winterize your car

Another easy thing you can do yourself without spending any money is to check the coolant in your radiator.

If your system hasn’t been flushed in at least two years, try to have a professional mechanic take a look at it before winter hits in earnest. (This isn’t free, but mechanics can spot leaks and related problems).

What you should do:

  • Without opening the cap, check the coolant level by locating the “Full” line on the reservoir.
  • If your system needs coolant, add a mixture of antifreeze and water (this can be bought pre-mixed or concentrated, so be sure to check the label before buying). While it will generally be a 50/50 mix, colder weather may call for a 60/40 ratio. Check your owner’s manual for exact specs.

The website says, “It is especially important to have the correct antifreeze/water mixture to prevent fluid from freezing in your radiator. Pick up a tester at an auto parts store and make sure the fluid is filled to the maximum line.”

5. Decide Whether You Need Snow Tires

Weatherproof your wallet: How to winterize your car


Snow tires have come a long way in the last couple of decades: They used to work exclusively in heavy snowfall and would perform terribly in dry conditions. Nowadays, snow tires are more versatile, but they still have a shorter tread life than the all-season tires that come with your car.

So, should you buy winter tires? It depends on where you live. In extreme winter climates, it may make sense to spend a little extra on winter tires, which will give you extra traction on snow and wet roads.

But if it usually stays above 30 degrees where you live (other than a few brief cold snaps), you should be able to get by just fine without spending any money on snow tires.

No matter which tires you choose, they need to be in good shape to keep you safe.

What you should do:


The bottom line is that winterizing your car doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. The key is to take care of practical things like:

  • Ensuring the wiper blades are in good working order
  • Keeping the battery charged
  • Making sure you’re using your car’s heater the right way
  • Making sure your vehicle has the proper coolant level
  • Gauging whether you need tires and if so, what kind

Ready to rev up your savings even more? Here are some DIY tips to help you save on car repairs.

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