Winter Car Care – A Detailed Guide

Let me ask you a question:

Would you face the winter’s ice, snow and sleet without a coat, gloves and other cold-weather gear?

Of course not! Your car needs protection as well.

Winter is the most damaging season for automobiles. That’s just a fact!

Your car’s paint, tires, glass, plastic and other surfaces are at the mercy of the elements.

We’re talking wind, rain, sleet, snow, sand, gravel, cinders, salt and road oil.

The Fall season is an opportunity. Use this time of year to inspect and prepare your car with a protective layer.

Paint, tires, leather and rubber trim all may need touching up. This is true even if you have cared for them all summer.

But if you didn’t prepare before winter, don’t worry!

There are products for keeping your car clean and protected…

Be Sure to Seal the Paint

Will your car be exposed to extreme winter conditions?

Of course, it depends on where you live.

In any case, the best protective coating is a paint sealant (synthetic wax).

Unlike carnauba wax products, a good paint sealant shields against water and road salts.

It is highly recommended and let me explain why…

Polymers in modern paint sealants cross-link. This creates a barrier that’s more difficult for water, road salts and chemicals to penetrate.

A good paint sealant will last 5 to 6 months. That’s enough protection for the Winter season.

One product that I use is Klasse All-In-One. It’s great for this purpose.

Keeping Your Car Clean

Your car is more likely to be scratched during winter due to debris on the road.

Moisture also penetrates deep scratches and chips in your car’s paint.

That’s not all…

Moisture repeatedly freezes and thaws. This weakens and eventually cracks surrounding paint.

Oxidation eventually sets in.

Reduce paint damaging oxidation (caused by winter road damage) by washing your car as often as possible.

Of course, you must also inspect for paint chips and scratches. Seal any new paint chips with a paint sealant.

Treating a Leather Interior

Winter is also hard on leather interiors.

Cold, dry air pulls moisture from leather. You must treat leather prior to the onset of freezing temps.

The thing is leather will not accept conditioners below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

While the surface will look good, you haven’t provided moisture to the hide.

It’s about timing. Be proactive.

I recommend Lexol Leather Conditioner and Connolly Hide Care for winter leather care.

Protecting Your Car’s Tires

Tires have a tough job in the winter, too.

Quality tire dressing keeps tires looking good, even during harsh weather.

This practice also provides a barrier to the elements. Your rubber won’t deteriorate.

Do you live in a region that gets a lot of snow and ice?

Here’s another easy tip:

Spray an inexpensive, silicone-based tire dressing in the wheel wells.

Take it from me…

This will prevent buildup of snow, ice and road salt.

Although not recommended for exterior painted surfaces (it makes body shop repairs difficult), silicone is a great protectant for engines, wheel wells and the under side of your car.

It’s best to start this practice before the really cold weather hits.

Delicate, Expensive Wheels And Rims

Let’s talk about expensive, delicate wheels.

If this applies to you, think about removing each wheel for winter preparation.

They should be cleaned, inspected, and sealed.

Clean each wheel, front and back, with an extra-strength wheel cleaner.

Scrub those tires thoroughly.

Dry the wheels with a clean terrycloth towel. Protect with a quality paste wax or paint sealant.

Also, be sure to treat your tires (front and back) with a liberal application of tire dressing.

Pro Tip: Allow it to soak in for 5 to 10 minutes before wiping off excess.

Don’t Forget to Treat Your Trim

Bumpers, trim and rubber door seals need extra protection as well, especially when the mercury drops.

These materials are affected by extreme temperatures. Think of the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation.

Make no mistake about it…

UV rays cause fading, hardening and cracking and especially so during Winter (reduced ozone layer).

Concerning Convertible Tops

Don’t forget to clean and protect your canvas top if driving a convertible in cold winter weather.

If water penetrates your top, then freezes, it’ll be prone to severe damage.

It’s awful!

I can’t stress this enough:

A top must be thoroughly seal (waterproofed) before taking it out in such conditions.

Wiper Blades And Windshield Cleaner Fluid

Be sure to inspect your windshield wipers.

Replace them if there’s any sign of wear. Remember, you’ll be counting on your wipers.

And, while you’re at it, check your wash fluid!

Add a wash booster for better visibility against road salt, road grime and mud.

Don’t Be Caught With a Dead Battery

Consider replacing your battery if the car is more than 6 years old.

Brutal sub-zero mornings can drain the last bit of power from weak car batteries.

Happens all the time!

Inspection should be done before Winter arrives even if your battery is relatively new.

And make certain terminals and posts are corrosion-free (clean with baking soda and water). Terminals should also be tight.

Change Coolant And Motor Oil

Have the cooling system checked for the correct concentration and level of antifreeze.

Follow the manufacturer’s recommendation for the ratio of water to coolant.

Is your coolant is more than two years old?

It really should be flushed and refilled.

Changing the oil and filter (prior to winter) will prolong your vehicle’s engine life.

FYI: Most manufacturers recommend an oil change every 5,000 to 15,000  miles or once a year, whichever comes first.

Tire Tips For Winter Conditions

Worn tires won’t give you the traction you need on wet, icy roads.

If your tires are worn, replace them with a good set of all-weather radials.

Get a pair of good snow tires for extra grab in the snow. Snow tires should always be used in complete sets of four.

While it is common practice to place just one pair on the drive wheels, this is a recipe for disaster (especially on front-wheel drive vehicles).

It’s because the rear will be more likely to lock up during braking.

You guessed it! Fishtailing or a possible spin.

Although not as dangerous when a pair of snow tires are placed on the rear axle of a rear-drive car, those tires only provide traction with acceleration.

They’ll do little for cornering or stopping.

For a rural area, keep a set of tire chains in your trunk.

It’s smart!

Likewise, correct tire pressure ensures optimum handling, stopping and wear.

Check pressure frequently.

Take it from me, cold air causes it to drop (one pound for every 10 degrees Fahrenheit).

Winter Car Care Summary

Winter preparation, particularly in cold climate regions, will help your car make it to Spring in good condition.

Take a weekend before cold weather sets in.

Simply do these tasks:

Change the oil, check the tires, change your wipe blades, check your battery and coolant, and polish and wax your car.

Check those boxes and you’ll be ready for Winter’s worst.

Check out the great info we have on car covers!