Camping & Survival

30 Days of Preparing for Severe Winter Weather Day 3: Get Your Car Ready

On average 7,130 people are killed in weather-related car accidents each year—an additional 629,000 are injured. Seventy percent of injuries reported in winter weather are due to car accidents. Hazardous weather conditions such as blizzards, heavy snow, freezing rain and sleet can cause poor visibility, slick roads, road obstructions and damaging road hazards. It is best to stay off the roads when winter weather is on its way if possible. However, road travel at times necessary. Preparing your car for winter weather may make your driving less treacherous. Here is a checklist for getting your car ready for winter. Many of these precautions you can do yourself.



Bald tires or worn-out tread make getting traction on slippery roads extremely difficult. Take a ruler or coin and check the depth of your tread. If you expect a significant amount of snow in your area, the tread depth should be 6/32-inch or greater. For a rainy and less snowy winter, your tires should have a tread depth of 4/32-inch or greater. Replace tires with insufficient tread or tires showing weather cracks.


Tires lose pressure when it gets cold. With a tire gauge, check all four tires. Inflate tires to the manufacturer’s recommended PSI. Depending on where you live, you should consider purchasing chains or snow tires.


Though summer months are harsher on batteries than winter months, cold weather requires more power to start your car. Heating the car takes more battery power as well. Below-freezing temperatures can zap your car’s battery power by up to 30 percent. Make sure your battery has enough fluid and its terminals are clean and free of corrosion. Keep a towrope and jumper cables in the trunk.


Oil thickens in colder weather. You may have to switch your oil type. Check your owner’s manual for manufacturer recommendations.


Worn or old brakes are potentially dangerous on slick and slippery roads. Have your brakes inspected and replaced if needed. It may be necessary to flush the brake fluid, especially if you have not had a maintenance overhaul in the previous three years.

Windshield Wipers

Clean and inspect your windshield wipers. If cracked or worn out, replace them. Replace your windshield washer fluid with a de-icing product. Keep an ice scrapper in the car.


Always keep your car’s gas tank full during the coldest months. If there is less than a half-tank of gas, moisture can form in the line and freeze.


The antifreeze level should be full with a 50/50 coolant and water mix. If it has been a year or more, perform a flush on your car’s radiator and replace all necessary fluids.

Exhaust System

Have your exhaust system professionally inspected to prevent potentially deadly carbon monoxide leaks.


Make sure your car’s heating system is working properly. If you are stuck on the road, you will want to make sure the heater will not fail.


Do all of your lights work? Double check your hazard lights. Replace any burned out bulbs and keep extras in the car.

Regular year-round maintenance of your car helps prevent expensive and unexpected repairs. However, cold weather can wreak havoc on your car’s major components such as the battery and engine. Taking it to your mechanic for a pre-winter check may make the difference between being stranded on the side of the road during a whiteout and safely arriving at your destination.

How do you prepare your car for winter? Give us your tips and pointers in the comment section. If you missed yesterday’s post “30 Days of Preparing for Severe Winter Weather Day 2: Winterize Your House,” you can read it here.

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

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