5 Winter Car Mistakes to Avoid for a Smooth & Safe Drive

Winter can transform your reliable car into a chilly challenge, complete with ice-glazed windshields and sluggish engines. But don’t let the freeze put a damper on your drive!

Here are five crucial winter car care tips that will not only tell you what to avoid but also how to cleverly conquer the cold.

Get ready to equip yourself with the know-how to keep your car performing at its best, even when the temperatures drop.

1. Beware of Boiling Water on Windshields

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Image Credit: TaraPatta/Shutterstock.

Ice on your windshield can be a real hassle, but resist the temptation to pour boiling water over it. The sudden temperature change can crack your windshield, leading to expensive repairs. Instead, start your car, turn the defrost on high, and let the car’s heat do the work.

This patience pays off, avoiding potential damage and ensuring a clear view.

2. Handle Frozen Windshield Wipers with Care

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Image Credit: Nadezhda.Photo/Shutterstock.

Those frozen windshield wipers can be tricky, but don’t just turn them on hoping to clear the ice. This can tear your wiper blades and burn out the motor—a costly mistake.

Use a plastic scraper to gently free the blades and allow the defroster to melt the ice (or wait until the ice is melted and frees the blades). When in doubt, remember the Lake Tahoe locals’ trick: lift the wipers off the windshield when parking in snowy areas.

3. Check Your Tire Pressure Regularly

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Image Credit: Fahroni/Shutterstock.

Cold weather can be a sneaky adversary for your car’s tires. As temperatures plummet, you might notice your low-pressure warning light flickering to life on the dashboard, or your tires appearing a bit deflated. This happens because cold air is denser, leading to a drop in tire pressure. Plus, tires naturally lose pressure over time, making regular checks even more crucial in the fall and winter.

Here’s a bit of tech-savvy: Since September 2007, all new cars come equipped with a Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS). This handy feature alerts you with a dashboard light when your tire pressure dips too low. However, don’t just rely on this warning light; it’s not a maintenance reminder but a caution for sudden air loss while driving. It’s wise to manually check your tire pressure monthly with a gauge.

Don’t panic if you see the tire pressure warning light on a cold morning; it doesn’t always mean you have a puncture. Typically, tire pressure drops about 1 pound per square inch for every 10°F decrease in temperature.

So, if you’re not topping off your tires at home and the light turns off after driving for a bit (thanks to heat building up in the tires), you still need to check and adjust the pressure.

Even with a TPMS, it’s best to use a tire pressure gauge to check all your tires, including the spare, at least once a month, regardless of the weather. As the weather cools, be ready to attend to this essential task to ensure safe and efficient winter driving.

Remember, maintaining the right tire pressure is key to avoiding flat tires and ensuring optimal performance and safety on those wintery roads.

4. Don’t Neglect Your Car’s Battery

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Image Credit: BaLL LunLa/Shutterstock.

Cold temperatures mean your car’s battery has to work harder. Opt for a battery with a higher cold cranking amps (CCA) rating for better winter performance (ref).

Regularly check your battery’s health, especially if it’s older. A simple test can save you from being stranded on a cold morning.

5. Monitor Your Antifreeze Levels

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Image Credit: ronstik/Shutterstock.

Finally, don’t overlook your antifreeze. A sealed system doesn’t mean it’s maintenance-free. Before winter hits, test your antifreeze and ensure it’s at the right level and condition. Water expansion due to freezing can cause severe damage to your engine block and radiator (ref).

Regular checks and timely replacements can save you from expensive repairs.

By avoiding these common winter car care mistakes, you ensure your vehicle remains reliable and safe during the cold months. It’s not just about smooth driving; it’s about being prepared for whatever winter throws your way.

Martha A. Lavallie
Martha A. Lavallie
Author & Editor | + posts

Martha is a journalist with close to a decade of experience in uncovering and reporting on the most compelling stories of our time. Passionate about staying ahead of the curve, she specializes in shedding light on trending topics and captivating global narratives. Her insightful articles have garnered acclaim, making her a trusted voice in today's dynamic media landscape.