You’re Moving Where?! How to Take Care of Your Car in a Cold Climate

Two Cars Driving in SnowMost of the country has been having a miserable winter, that’s for sure. Those of us who live in perennial warmth (average January 2014 temp for Los Angeles: 73 degrees, according to Time) can’t imagine having to scrape a windshield or de-ice a lock just to run an errand. If you finally got that dream job you’ve been after, and it’s in an area with lots of snow and ice, it’s time to brush up on your car-care techniques for cold weather.

Change Your Fluids

  • Make sure your car has plenty of antifreeze, and use a premium brand designed for cold weather.
  • Switch to a motor oil with a lower viscosity (thickness), as cold weather can cause higher-viscosity oils to thicken.
  • If you have a diesel vehicle, make sure to purchase a block heater and starting fluid. Cold temperatures can cause diesel fuel to gel, making it harder to push through the fuel injection system.
  • Change your windshield washer fluid to an appropriate winter blend, preferably one that resists freezing. O’Reilly Auto sells Rain-X windshield washer fluid that has a freezing point of -25 degrees.

Buy the Right Tires

Invest in a good set of snow tires. Snow tires feature specially designed tread that grips better under snowy and icy road conditions. Although all-season tires work well for light snow, the tread composition can harden in severe cold, resulting in less grip and traction when needed. TireBuyer carries a variety of BF Goodrich tires, including winter ones that start at $92 each.

Have the Right Tools

Don’t leave the warmth of your current home without a good ice scraper to remove ice from your windshield and a small shovel to help you dig your car out.

Create a Cold-Weather Crisis Kit

A good kit includes:

  • Thermal blanket and an extra pair of warm gloves
  • A charged flashlight with extra batteries or a crank for manual charging
  • A five-pound bag of cat litter for added traction
  • Jumper cables
  • A few road flares
  • Gallon of water and nonperishable snacks

Keep a Close Eye on Maintenance

Follow your car’s recommended maintenance schedule and keep a close eye on components that may be affected by cold weather. Belts and hoses are prone to disintegrating in colder climates, while increased exposure to road salt and grime can cause increased rust along the car’s undercarriage, wheel wells and frame.

Keep an eye on your battery as well. The average car battery has a lifespan of about three to five years, AAA reports, but severe cold can easily reduce its overall lifespan. Have your battery tested by an experienced technician before you set off on your move. Your local AutoZone will test it for free.

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