What Should I Do To My Car Before Winter?

The basic idea is to make sure that your car is running at its best before the winter hits and hazardous road conditions could cause harm to your vehicle or your family. We recommend that you ensure these nine (9) points of your car are checked and ready to go before winter:

  1. Battery & charging system
  2. Drive belts & engine hoses
  3. Tire Inspection / Replacement
  4. Air filter
  5. Fluids
  6. Lights
  7. Wiper blades
  8. Brakes
  9. Emergency winter car kit

When you are preparing your car for winter driving, these 9 elements are a solid checklist for making sure your vehicle gets you through another winter safely.

1. Battery & Charging System

The first step in your winter car maintenance checklist should be the battery and charging system.

Having a fully-charged battery and a properly functioning battery charging system in your car is crucial during the cold-weather months of the winter. This is the first point on the checklist because of the critical nature of your battery’s health. Old, worn out batteries can easily die in the winter leaving you stranded out in the cold when you least expect it.

You should also make sure that the terminals and cables for your car battery are clean and fully operations before winter hits. Again, the performance of your battery is more critical than ever in the winter. Make sure that your battery cables are free from tears or cuts, and that your battery terminals are clear from any corrosion that might limit battery performance or cause irreparable harm or battery death.

2. Drive Belts & Engine Hoses

The next step on your winter car checkup should take you to your engine – right to the drive belts and the engine hoses.

When checking your accessory belts, take care to check the bottom of them as well just looking at the outside with a quick glance – you are looking for any cracks or fraying. Many newer belts make it difficult to see potential damage – you should replace these types of belts every 60,000 miles or so.

The hoses on your cooling system are equally important – check thoroughly for any loose clamps, leaks, or cracks. Do a “squeeze” test as well and replace any hose that feels extra-brittle or overly-spongy.

3. Tire Inspection / Replacement

The type and health of your tires is one of the most important steps in getting your car ready for winter.

In areas like ours that get a lot of snow, proper snow tires on all 4 wheels are the asbsolute best way to ensure proper traction and safe driving during the winter months.

You should replace any tire with less than 3/32-inches of tread remaining. Plus, be on the lookout for uneven tire wear, which can indicate alignment, wheel balance, or suspension problems that need to be addressed at the same time.

During the winter, your tire pressure can typically fall by 1 psi for every 10 degrees the temperature drops. You should check your tire pressure (including your spare) more often during the winter months so that you are never caught off guard by a flat tire that could have been avoided.

4. Air Filter

Next, check the air filter on your car to ensure proper engine performance and avoid catastrophic failure when bad weather hits.

A quick check can be performed – hold your air filter up to a 60-watt lightbulb – if the light can be seen most of the filter then it is clean enough to continue being used. However, if you can’t see the light through most of the air filter, you should give Otego Tire & Auto a call, or stop in today, and have it replaced.

5. Fluids

The next important check on your winter car readiness checklist is the critical fluids. There are a number of fluids that need to be checked and maintained, including:

  • Coolant / anti-freeze
  • Washer fluid
  • Transmission fluid
  • Brake fluid
  • Power steering fluid

Make sure that each of these fluids is topped off if they are getting low.

6. Lights

Lights are often overlooked when doing checkups on your car needs for winter. But, given the limited visibility and shortened reaction times that often take place during winter bad weather, your lights are extra critical this time of year.

Check all of your lights, including:

  • Headlights
  • Taillights
  • Brake lights
  • Turn signals
  • Emergency flashers
  • Back-up lights

7. Wiper Blades

Your wiper blades are another incredibly important but often overlooked step on our winter car safety checklist – equally as important as your tires and battery (as well as all of the other critical steps we have listed).

It might be prudent (especially in areas like ours where winter can be unpredictably severe) to install special winter-weather wiper blades. But, at the very least, your wiper blades should completely clear the glass of water on every wipe. If they do not, then they should be replaced before winter sets in.

8. Brakes

If there is any indication of a brake problem (even a slight one) you should have this checked out by a professional here at Otego Tire & Auto immediately – especially when you are heading into the winter months.

Stopping distance is even more critical during winter driving when icy conditions can impact the necessary reaction time to keep yourself and other drivers safe.

This is a no-brainer – your brakes should be part of your winter car safety checklist every single year without question.

9. Emergency Winter Car Kit

We highly recommend that you keep a emergency winter car kit in your car during the winter in case an emergency happens – but, you should really have this all year round.

Your emergency winter car kit should include the basic emergency materials you might need in case your get into an accident, witness an accident, or your have a car problem while on the road during bad weather.

You can see what we recommend having in your winter car kit on our winter car emergency kit checklist below.

What Should You Keep In Your Car During Winter?

We strongly recommend that every keep standard set of supplies in their vehicle as a winter car emergency kit in case something bad happens during these often unsafe months.

Our winter car emergency kit checklist is a list of the materials that we recommend being part of your winter car readiness. Our list is below:

Mobile phone

Drinking water

Basic first-aid kit

Non-perishable snacks (human and pet)

Bag of traction material (sand, salt, cat litter)

Snow shovel 


Extra warm clothing (gloves, hats, scarves, etc)

Flashlight with extra batteries

Window washer fluid

Brush / ice scraper

Cloth, towels, or roll of paper towels

Jumper cables

Warning devices (flares or triangles)

Basic tool kit (wrenches, screwdrivers, pliers, etc)