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Winter Car Maintenance Checklist

Winter Car Maintenance Checklist

When you set your clocks back an hour, the winter is quickly approaching. The end of October signals a lot of things – NFL is in full effect, your favorite racing series will soon crown champions, and yes – Pumpkin Spice slowly begins to creep back into its basic containers.

However, temperatures also begin to drop rapidly. The reduced temps can cause additional wear and tear on mechanical parts, reduce on-road traction, and introduce poor weather conditions. Due to these pre-winter realities, many proactive car owners use November as a great time to complete their winter car maintenance checklist.

If you’re looking to keep your car in great shape as winter approaches, here are 7 items that should be on your list of service items.

#1 – Flush the Coolant System

The one item you’ll use more during the winter is your heater. But did you know that this system on most cars, trucks, and SUVs are powered by your engine’s coolant system? When your engine gets hot, coolant or radiator fluid flows through the engine, removes heat, and then to the heater core. The heat from the liquid then heats a series of coils. When you turn on the heater, a blower motor engages and sends heated air into your cabin.

However, sometimes the core will clog with crap like engine sludge, which will cause the heater to not function well. It can also lead to overheating – which can destroy your engine. To remove this potential, flush the coolant every November – regardless of where you live.

#2 – Replace Tires if Needed

While there are some places that can benefit from snow tires, most locations across North America are good about snow removal and keeping roads clear. But you still need to have good tread depth on all your tires for optimal traction and safe driving.

Start by checking the tread depth. Any tires under 5/32nd’s of an inch in tread depth should be replaced – especially if the threat of snow and ice exists.

Also, stay ahead of tire pressure. When the temperatures drop, the air pressure in your tire is likely to fall more than 5 PSI. Anytime that TPMS light comes on the dash, take the car to a local tire shop, have all tires filled to recommended PSI.

#3 – Windshield Wiper Replacement

Every time you use the windshield wiper, the blades begin to wear out. For those that live in areas with summer thunderstorms, this means that your wiper blades have likely gone through a heck of a workout. So, do the smart thing by replacing them in November.

This is vital for those living in snow-prone areas. When the blades are fresh and in great shape, it’ll help remove road grime and melted snow that can smear on your windshield and make it impossible to see.

Here is another related tip – drain the washer reservoir and fill it with pure wiper fluid for winter seasons. Using water in your washer fluid tank will cause it to crack, and eventually drain when you need it most.

Finally – always keep a full bottle of wiper fluid in the trunk. This is quite helpful when snow and ice melt since you’ll use a ton of wiper fluid.

#4 – Replace Brake Pads

An item that is skipped on many people’s winter maintenance checklists (that blows my mind) is brake service. Solid brakes (specifically clean rotors and strong pads) and having good ABS sensors (along with the harness) is vital when road conditions are poor. If nothing else, have a professional mechanic inspect your brake pads and rotors before the winter weather arrives.

If they recommend replacement, get it done before snow arrives. You’ll be glad you did.

#5 – Service or Replace Your Battery

Car batteries depend on amps – not watts. The cranking amps are required to engage the starter, ignition system, and power the fuel pump. Since a battery only lasts for 3 to 5 years, it’s always recommended to service the battery (or have it checked for amps) – or replace the battery before cold weather arrives.

A good battery inspection will also include checking the condition of battery cables and other charging system components. An item often overlooked is the battery sensor, which is usually located underneath the battery and can become corroded if not serviced.

#6 – Restore Headlights

Visibility is also decreased during winter. Since it’s important to see at night, you’ll want to inspect the condition of your headlight lamps – specifically, the cover. If it’s cloudy or foggy looking, you should consider a DIY headlight restoration kit.

This video shows how this is typically done – or can be done by using some household items.

If you take the proactive step of restoring your headlight covers, then it’s a smart idea to protect them from future exposure to UV rays or road grime. This can be accomplished by applying a DIY ceramic coating like Armor Shield IX.

#7 – Be Proactive About Paint Protection

Something most car owners tend to forget is protecting their paint and other vehicle exterior parts from exposure to the elements. The best way to accomplish this is to invest in a paint protection product such as a ceramic coating.

The ceramic coating bonds to porous materials including clear coats, windshields, plastic trim, wheels, and other vehicle parts that are exposed to harsh weather conditions. It also helps to improve hydrophobic properties, which makes it easier to wash and clean during cold weather conditions.

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The primary area that benefits from a DIY ceramic coating like Armor Shield IX is the paint surface. By taking the time to prep your vehicle first, then apply the coating, you’re providing a microscopic, yet exceptionally durable layer of protection. It makes the surface incredibly hydrophobic, allowing winter sludge and snow to simply fall off with very little effort.

For those that live in areas with a lot of snow and ice, the coating can also help to reduce the frustration of removing these contaminants that can lead to oxidation, corrosion, and rust.

If you enjoyed this article, then you'll love AvalonKing's automotive care products for Do-It-Yourselfers. We create "No B.S products" for an affordable price. And the best part, we treat our customers like family, so if you have any questions or just looking to chat about cars, we're only an email or call away. Check out our homepage here.

Tim Charlet

Tim is part of the AvalonKing team as a content editor. A 30-year automotive guru, marketing super freak, and accomplished publicist & columnist, “Timmah” is also a licensed NHRA Drag Racer, a proud dad of two, and loves a good Guinness two-part pour.
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These are our recommended quantities for the respective type of vehicle. The Volume Savings can be seen besides/below.

Type of Vehicle Recommended Quantity Volume Savings
motorcycle   Motorcycle 1 bottle*
small car   Small car 1 bottle*
sedan   Sedan 2 bottles* Save $35 (25%)
pick-up truck   Pick-up 2 bottles* Save $35 (25%)
jeep   Jeep 2 bottles* Save $35 (25%)
suv   SUV 3 bottles* Save $70 (33%)
van   VAN 3 bottles* Save $70 (33%)
boat   Boat 4 bottles+* Save $110 (39%)

*Please note that it may be a good idea getting an extra bottle, ensuring you don't run out when doing an application.

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