Winterize your car for less
Preparing your vehicle for winter's onslaught doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg.
Winter is coming, and that means one thing: Unless you live somewhere like Arizona, California or Florida, it's going to get cold, very cold. So your car is about to get abused. Hail, sleet, snow, ice and subzero temperatures are all in the forecast, and they can do a lot of damage to your vehicle.
But there are a few things you can do to ensure that you and your ride make it through the cold, long winter. You don't have to spend a lot of money, just a little, and you don't have to become best friends with your mechanic. This simple list will help you make the right calls.
Replace your fluids
Fluids are the lifeblood of your car. If it's liquid and is carried between your fenders, it needs attention. The fluids checklist is short but important: oil, coolant, gasoline, brake fluid. And, if you're unlucky enough to own an older car with hydraulic suspension, check that fluid, too.
Your car's oil needs to be thick enough, clean enough and fresh enough to provide engine protection in the dead of winter. Change your oil and oil filter, regardless of mileage interval, when the season begins. Consult your owners manual to ensure that the oil you use is the proper grade to deal with the temperatures in your region.
Your car's coolant should be fresh and clean; even a healthy engine can overheat in winter if not cooled properly. For winter, the coolant should be a 50-50 mix of water and antifreeze. Water alone can freeze inside your engine, expanding and damaging vital components.
Old, stale fuel can be difficult to ignite in cold temperatures, so when it comes to gasoline, fresher is better. This only matters for cars that sit a lot, or diesel vehicles.
Brake fluid is hygroscopic, meaning that it absorbs water from the air over time. In cold weather, that water can freeze in brake lines, making your brakes feel sluggish and damaging important seals and components. Again, the fresher your brake fluid is, the better.
Average cost: $50 to $80 of fluids, not including gasoline. Costs vary with a vehicle's fluid capacities.
Change your wiper blades
This one is simple. If you can't clear snow and ice from your windshield, you can't see the road. If you can't see the road, you probably won't be able to stay on it. The rubber on wiper blades ages quickly and tears easily when frozen, so if you're smart, you'll buy new blades with every new season. The more expensive blades usually clean better, so stick with name brands.
While you're at it, Rain-X and similar windshield-washer additives help slick off water and snow. They're worth a try and usually are cheap.
Average cost: $3 to $20 apiece for wiper blades, depending on brand and fitment.
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thank you for your tip about brake fluid! i don't know that, and run my car for 5 years with unsafe brake system. thank you