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How to Protect Your Vehicle in Cold Weather

Image of woman looking out her car window during the snow, smiling because she knows her vehicle is protected from the cold.

As the temperature outside begins to get cooler, it’s important to protect your car to help ensure it runs smoothly in the months ahead.

The checklist below will get you started:

Cold weather car care checklist

Headlights

As the days get shorter and the sky stays darker for longer periods of time, there’s a good chance you will need to use your car’s headlights more frequently. This sustained use can make your lights wear out sooner.

Proper lighting is crucial for driving safely in the dark or in bad weather, so be sure to check that your car’s headlights are still shining brightly, or if they need to be replaced. Also be sure to check that your brake lights and turn signals are functioning properly.

Tires

The air pressure in your car’s tires decreases by about a pound for every 10 degrees the temperature drops. Consequently, as the weather gets colder, it is even more important to check the pressure in your tires regularly.

Locate the recommended tire pressure level for your car in your owner's manual or on a yellow sticker in the doorjamb on the driver side door. Use a tire pressure gauge to measure your tire’s pressure. Be sure to check the pressure when the tires are cold to give you an accurate reading. Unscrew the valve cap on your tire and press the tire gauge onto the valve stem long enough to get an accurate pressure amount.

If your car’s tires need air, you can fill them with an air compressor at home or at the local gas station. After refilling your tires, recheck the pressure with the gauge to ensure accuracy, replace your valve caps, and you’re on your way!

Brakes

Cold weather and falling leaves brings wet, slippery roads, so being able to stop your car properly is critically important to your safety. When brake pads wear down or your brake fluid is low, you may find that your car won’t stop as quickly. Have your car’s brakes checked before the road conditions change to better prepare you for bad weather driving.

Windshield Wipers

Being able to see the road clearly is important for driving your car safely. In addition to having functional wiper blades, it’s a good idea to check wiper fluid, as drivers often use more in the rain or snow. You might even want to carry some with you as an additional safety precaution. Also, be sure to check to see if your blades are cracked, as this is a sign that they should be replaced.

Before you go to your auto supply store, be sure you know the exact make model and year of your car, as well as any other specifications you may need. Here's how to install your new windshield wipers:

  1. Remove the old blades by first pulling the entire wiper up, away from your windshield, to a vertical position.
  2. Turn the blade perpendicular to the arm so that you can see the hinge.
  3. Find the small tab on the hinge and pull it (you should hear a snap), then separate the wiper blade from the arm. Be very careful not to let the unprotected metal arm fall back against your windshield, as it may cause a scratch.
  4. Attach the new blades by inserting the wiper arm through the appropriate hole in the new blade.
  5. Position the hinge to be perpendicular to the wiper and align it so that the arm's hook will cover the hinge.
  6. Once the arm is inside the hole on the blade, align the hook above the hinge and click them together.
  7. Lower the blade to the window and you’re done.

Battery

As temperatures drop, it’s possible for the cold to drain your car’s battery. Consider replacing your car battery if it is more than 3 years old, and check to be sure there is no corrosion on the car battery itself, or on the battery connections.

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