1.) CHECK THE ANTIFREEZE.
Even if it looks clean and bright, and it tests safe to 35 degrees below zero, it may be worn out. “Permanent” antifreeze is anything but. The additives designed to protect your engine and radiator from corrosion are usually depleted after just two years.
2.) CHANGE THE OIL—AND THEN SOME
Check your owner’s manual, which may instruct you to switch to a lighter-weight oil in cold weather. While your car is in the shop, have your technician check belts and hoses. Ruptured hoses are a top cause of roadside breakdowns—something you never want, especially in blizzard conditions.
3.) GET NEW TIRES
If your car needs new tires, get them now. And while you’re at it, consider a winter option. Once they’re in place, make sure they are properly inflated, and check them monthly. Tire pressures go down one pound for every 10 degrees.
4.) TEST THE BATTERY
Most winter no-starts are due to worn spark plugs, not weak batteries. If your car is getting close to a scheduled tune-up, get it now. At the very least, have the battery terminals and cable clamps inspected and cleaned as necessary.
5.) REPLACE THE WIPERS
Replace worn-out wipers with winter blades, which have a thin rubber sheath covering the main wiper blade. Or choose the newer style with no moving parts, which will ensure they never freeze up in an ice or snow storm.
6.) TOP OFF THE FLUIDS
Especially windshield washer fluid; if you’ve been using plain water, top it off with solvent. Operate the washers until you have flushed any plain water out of the lines and nozzles, both of which can freeze up quickly.
7.) TREAT THE GLASS
Apply a glass conditioner such as Rain-X not only to the windshield but to all your windows. On the windshield, it helps keep the glass free of road grime; on the remaining windows, it makes removing ice easier.
8.) WAX THE CAR
A good coat of wax before the white stuff starts falling doesn’t just protect your paint—it also helps ensure that snow glides right off.
9.) CHANGE THE MATS
Replace your floor mats with cheap carpet samples from rug stores. You can even use them for extra traction in a pinch. Just tuck one or two under the drive wheels if you get stuck on ice.
10.) GREASE THE DOORS
With the first sudden cold snap, many people find their doors, as if welded, will not open. To keep them from freezing shut, apply silicone grease to all the rubber gaskets between the door and the car’s body. Don’t forget the gaskets surrounding the trunk lid or hatch as well.