This winter makes sure you take care of your car, your family, and yourself. Our myth-busting guide to winter car maintenance is here to help you prepare for a season of safe motoring. We’re coming into the colder months, and this year more than most, when cars have been sitting unused for long periods through the year, it’s sensible to make sure they’re prepped to withstand the wintry weather ahead.
So, what’s the inherited wisdom when it comes to winter car maintenance – and is there any truth to it?
Let’s dive in…
Debunking Cold-Weather Car Myths
Myth #1: “You should prime the fuel pump before starting up your car in cold weather.”
Why: During the colder months, drivers need to start the car by priming the pump first—especially for older cars. If you’d left your car sitting idle for periods of time, you’d need to switch the ignition key to ‘on‘ (not far enough to start the engine) and wait for a few seconds, even repeating the process a couple of times before turning the key all the way. This would give the fuel pump a few seconds to pick up more fuel to help the car start.
The truth: This is rarely necessary. Now, with all the advancements in technology, you’ll only need to do this if you leave your car parked for a week or longer. Or if you drive an older car, of course.
Expert tip: If your car does fail to start, before calling a mechanic, make sure your engine oil is within the right range and then try pressing the clutch in lightly while turning the ignition key.
Myth #2: “You need to winterize your car every year.”
Why: Winterizing your vehicle includes mechanics replacing coolant with anti-freeze to avoid the fluid from freezing during the colder months.
Coolant, which sucks the heat out of the engine, going through the radiator and fan to cool off the car, would freeze in the winter. Anti-freeze used to be more effective in winter as it’s made up of more chemicals and less water, making it less susceptible to freezing.
The truth: This no longer applies to newer vehicles. Car manufacturers automatically put in anti-freeze in vehicles, removing any need for you to winterize your car in this way.
Expert tip: You don’t need to replace the coolant with anti-freeze, but there are things you can do to prepare your vehicle for colder weather. Read our useful winterizing tips for your car in the essential winter car maintenance checklist below.
Myth #3: “Pumping gas during cold weather can be a fire hazard.”
Why: Cold, dry weather is more conducive to static electricity, which can ignite gasoline.
The truth: Gasoline itself isn’t flammable–it’s the flammable gas, or fumes, that radiate while you’re filling the car up that can ignite.
It’s possible for static electricity to build up and cause a spark that could ignite the fuel vapor, but it’s extremely unlikely.
Expert tip: When refueling, turn off the engine and avoid getting back in the car until you’ve finished. If you’re worried about a build-up of static electricity for any reason, simply touch another metallic surface so it can discharge safely before you touch the nozzle.
Myth #4: “Car batteries are especially vulnerable to cold weather.”
Why: Cold conditions mean your car battery can’t produce as much power and has to work harder to start your vehicle.
The truth: While it’s true that car batteries have to work harder and can have problems in winter, hot conditions are actually a bigger cause of battery failure.
Expert tip: Getting a professional mechanic to check your car battery’s condition before winter is highly recommended.
Winter Car Maintenance: Essential Checklist
Keep up with your car maintenance schedule at all times – that way you can stay safe and ensure you don’t invalidate your extended car warranty. But basic checks are even more important ahead of the colder months.
Key things to check before and throughout the winter:
- Lights (headlights, taillights, fog lights, brake lights, reverse lights, indicators)
- Windshield washer fluid–Change if not suitable for colder temperatures
- Wiper blades–Replace if needed (with winter wipers if driving in more extreme conditions)
- Tire type–Fit winter tires if driving in more extreme conditions
- Tire tread
- Tire pressure
- Oil level check
- Oil change if due
- Coolant level
- Power-assisted steering fluid level
- Brake fluid level
- Transmission fluid level
- Door seals and hinges–Use a suitable lubricant to avoid sticking
A good mechanic can help you check other things such as your battery, the condition of engine hoses, the drive belt, and your car’s air filter. You can read our guide to finding a good mechanic here.
What to keep in your winter car safety kit:
- Cell phone charger and external battery pack
- Ice scraper and de-icer/antifreeze
- Flashlight and batteries
- Blankets, warm clothing, and tough footwear
- Water and non-perishable food such as energy bars
- First aid kit
Good to have if you’re able and know how to use them:
- Jack and tire change tools
- Jump leads
- Sand and shovel
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Visit our Learning Center for a wealth of useful resources and guides covering all your auto needs.
Don’t miss our auto expert’s guide to looking after your car.
Frequently Asked Questions: Winter Car maintenance
Where should I keep my car?
A garage provides more shelter than a driveway or roadside, so if you have one, use it. But garages can still get very cold, so consider using a heater too.
Can I do anything to prevent windshield chips in winter?
Windshield chips are common in winter because of the condition of road surfaces, and unfortunately, there’s little you can do to avoid them. Control your speed on surfaces with lots of gravel and grit, and take care of your windshield – repair any chips, replace your wipers, use an ice-scraper, and avoid pouring boiling water on it.
How often should I start my car in cold weather?
It’s advisable to start the car at least once a week – any longer and it could require more encouragement through priming the fuel pump.
Do you need to keep your fuel tank full over winter?
Keeping at least a half tank of fuel can help avoid freezing because less condensation can form inside the pipes. Plus, you might need the extra fuel to get somewhere in bad conditions.
Get Protection From Auto Repair Costs
Vehicle ownership isn’t all open roads and driving tunes. You’re going to need to arrange essential car maintenance–and repairs at some point too unless you’re really lucky! Winter is often the time of year most problems arise.
But what if you could minimize your costs over the course of owning your vehicle? Well, you can–with an extended auto warranty that gives you car maintenance and repair coverage plus peace of mind.
Endurance Warranty offers the most comprehensive protection package on the market. With it, you join the Endurance Elite Membership for 1 year, 100% FREE. This means you get a year’s free access to all the benefits, including key fob replacement, tire repair/replacement, $250 in digital shopping dollars, and much more! 24/7 roadside assistance, trip interruption coverage, substitute transportation–accepted at any certified mechanic–are just some of the additional benefits you get with each protection plan.