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Winter Is Coming, Get Your Vehicle Ready!

Old 11-04-11, 11:02 AM
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Default Winter Is Coming, Get Your Vehicle Ready!

Winter brings an onslaught of the elements. Every year, the salt, snow, slush, sub-zero temps and temperature swings from night/day will declare war on your vehicle. Since we don’t all live in Southern California, Hawaii, Florida or Arizona, I think it is nessecary to spread the word to you, the owner, of what you need to do to prepare your car for winter. A lot of this stuff is easily forgettable. If you take the time prepare your car and take care of it the right way throughout the winter, it will keep you smiling well into the next spring. I will also include a section on long term storage preparation for those who want to store their cars in the winter. By all means, if I have forgotten anything, please feel free to add your thoughts in a reply to this thread, and I will add them into the post. So with that said, here are some pointers on how to get your car ready for the test of time.
  • Check your oil, Transmission Fluid and coolant every week. Have your coolant tested if your car is more than 5 years old, or you are not sure when it was last serviced to make sure it is not diluted with too much water, and will still protect your engine in freezing temps. If you have too much water in your coolant, or it is too old, it could freeze in your cooling system, causing thousands of dollars in damage, and possibly even requiring engine rebuilds or replacement. Cars change the way they operate in cold weather, some will burn oil in cold weather, some won’t, some will idle rough when they are cold. Cars are finicky machines, and they are somewhat resistant to change when it comes to the seasons.

  • Be sure to check your tire pressures twice as often as you do in the summer. I check mine once a week in the winter, and about once a month in the summer. (Don’t forget to check the spare!) There is a scientific reason for this. Air expands and contracts (so to speak) with higher and lower temperatures. For example, if it is 70 degrees outside, and you put 40psi in your tires, then that night the temperature hits 30 degrees outside, it might only read 38psi the next day. Over the course of a week, you could lose as much as 10psi of pressure in your tires. The colder it gets, and the wider the range between day/night temperatures, the more the fluctuation will be.

  • Be sure to wash your car regularly, if you live in an area where the roads are heavily salted in winter, again, once per week is the preferred method. Try to use a touchless car wash (LaserWash), with an underbody sprayer. This will help stave off the inevitable rusting of components. Be sure to wash regardless of the weather conditions. You could be saving yourself thousands of dollars in unnessecary repairs just by spending $40 a month on car washes, even if its still snowy/salty on the roads and your car is just going to get dirty again in the next 5 minutes on the road…do it anyway. The fewer layers of salt you have on your car, the better off your car (and your wallet) will be. Remember, Repair Technicians get paid by the hour… So every hour they fight that rusty bolt or nut that is in the way of them completing your repairs gets relayed to you, the customer.

  • If there is a really cold spell predicted or if you are leaving (perhaps for the holidays) your car parked for more than a week, dump a bottle of HEET in your fuel tank before you fill it, then fill your tank with fresh fuel before you park it. This will keep your fuel from freezing (if it is going to be that cold) and will also help reduce/eliminate condensation that happens in fuel tanks when the temperature swings.

  • If the temperature drops below zero, Start your car once a day and let it run for 10-15 minutes, drive it at least once a week, unless you have prepared it for long-term winter storage, or you have an engine block heater. If you have a block heater, plug it in. Letting the car Idle once a day is better than not starting it at all, especially in sub zero temperatures.

  • Avoid touching LCD Navigation screens in colder temperatures, until they have warmed up a little bit.

  • Change your oil on time (you should do this anyway), because colder temperatures are a lot harder on your oil.

  • Keep your Windshield Washer Fluid FULL of WINTER washer fluid, not water, or a soapy water mixture. Water freezes when it gets cold, and it will crack the holding tank. Make sure the temperature rating on the washer fluid is on par with the temperatures you can expect in your region. When I lived north of Syracuse NY, it was not uncommon to see -20F or lower for a week or 2 at a time. Anything with a rating of 0F would have frozen in the tank fairly fast.

  • Keep your fuel tank at least ¼ to ½ full. The less fuel that is in your tank, the easier it will freeze or allow condensation to form on your tank walls and heaven forbid you do get stuck somewhere in the snow and cold, your engine is the only way you have to keep warm, how will you do that with no gas or gas with water in it?

  • Carry an emergency kit with you and make it easily accessible. You can find some good ideas for what to carry in your kit *here*. I carry spare parts (Belts/hoses, fuses etc), blanket(s), snacks, water, matches, flares, and other things.

  • Avoid water puddles if you can. Chances are they are filled with salt (in certain regions, read below for more info on corrosion), but not only that, ever see what happens when you splash cold water on hot glass? Metal will do the same thing, you can crack exhaust manifolds, brake rotors, and even an engine block because you drove through a (salty) water puddle when it was 20 degrees outside. Not good!

  • If you have nice wheels, aftermarket or stock, switch them out to plain old steel wheels or a throw away set you don’t care about for winter. Nothing worse than driving your beautiful Lexus on your $3,000+ Vossen’s, through a (salt) water puddle in winter. Again, Salt is corrosive. I can buy several sets of ugly steel wheels and rock them for a few months, and still not come close to the cost of NICE replacement wheels. And yes, Salt will destroy your aftermarket wheels in just a few short months. I have even seen chrome wheels destroyed in a matter of weeks. Not Cool.

  • Last, but certainly not least, if you have a heated garage, and you live in an area where the roads are heavily salted in winter, you might want to avoid using it to park your car in unless heavy snows are expected in the forecast. I know, you all think I am absolutely crazy. “I have a heated garage, but you want me to park my car outside in the cold? Are you insane?” Yes I do, and no I am not insane.  There is a logical explanation-chemistry. Salt, is a base element. Water, in its frozen form (Ice/Snow) does minimal harm to metal, however, when it is combined with salt, it becomes corrosive to metal. Now, add heat to the mixture, and the process accelerates, A LOT. As soon as salt comes in contact with water (not nessecarily just ice), it becomes an extremely corrosive compound. So, you drive your car through the blowing snow, after the roads have been salted. You come home and park your car in your heated garage, which allows the slush you have accumulated on your rocker panels, undercarriage and suspension to melt (instead of freeze). You basically just parked your car in a saltwater fish tank. However, if you drive your car home, park in your driveway outside in the sub-freezing temperatures, the slush you accumulated on the drive will freeze. Freezing temperatures slow corrosion almost to a complete halt.

Last edited by ArmyofOne; 11-16-11 at 07:04 AM.
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Old 11-04-11, 11:03 AM
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Long Term Winter Car Storage.

Here are some good ideas for those owners who like to store their prized automobiles for the winter months. These ideas, again, can save you a bundle of cash in the spring. Spend the money you save on repairs, on other things, like road trips!
  • Find a place to park your car for the winter where you will not have to move it, or move it as little as possible. A garage stall is best, Heated is good (in this case), but a heated garage kind of negates the need for a WINTER storage thread.

  • Change your oil and filter. Fresh oil in your engine will help keep your components from corroding.

  • Have your coolant checked for freeze threshold before you park. Replace it if the threshold is a higher temperature than -40F.

  • Add Sta-Bil and HEET to a fresh, full tank of fuel when you store it.

  • Leave the battery in the car, but disconnect it and put it on a trickle charger. This will keep your battery freshly charged, and warm. Cold kills batteries. If you are parking your car over the winter in a storage lot, remove the battery entirely, take it home with you and put it on a trickle charger. Do not store it on the ground, there needs to be at least a wooden 2x6 between the earth and the battery, or it will discharge over time.

  • Invest in a block heater (if your garage/long term parking area is not heated and is near an outlet), and plug it in. Block heater’s heat the coolant in the engine and keep it at a constant temperature. This is not crucial, just added insurance, so if you are not going to have a reliable outlet nearby, don’t worry about it too much, your car will be fine.

  • This is very important: Jack up the car, and either remove the wheels and set it on stands/blocks, or leave the wheels on and set it on stands/blocks (1 on each corner). I am a huge fan of the wheels on method if I am storing in my garage, because then I do not have to worry about where to store a set of wheels. If you are storing in an open storage lot, take the wheels off and take them home with you. Not only is there a possibility they will not be there when you come back for the car, but you will probably come back to 4 flat tires (if they are there). The reason you jack the car up off of the ground (there needs to be about an inch between the ground and the tire if you leave them on) is so that your tires do not form “flat spots” from having the weight of the car pressing down on the same spot for months. Many times, these flat spots can be permanent, requiring you to shell out cash to replace your tires.

  • If you are storing outside, you might think a car cover or tarp would be a great idea. Well, car covers on cars stored outside are generally a bad idea, and a tarp is an even worse one. In the winter, water can get under the cover and then freeze, freezing the cover to your paint! In addition to that, high winds can whip a cover around all over your paint, causing heavy marring and scratches. Imagine if it was both? High winds on a cover frozen to your paint? It could literally rip paint chunks right off of your car. It is much better (believe it or not) to leave your prize possession exposed to the elements with a good coat of wax and a sealant applied just prior to storage.

  • Be sure to put silicone lube on all the rubber hoses, boots and CV Joints that you can reach to help keep the rubber conditioned…with the exception of the serpentine belt. Better leave that one alone .

  • Either pull your Windshield Wipers up and off the glass, or remove them entirely. This will ensure you have wipers when you return to your car and that the ice and snow did not damage them.

  • (Outside/Unheated storage only) Either run your washer fluid completely empty, or fill it with washer fluid with a freeze threshold of -30 or lower, to ensure that your washer fluid does not freeze. I prefer to run it empty, because you just never know. Be sure to bring some with you when you come to pick up the car, as your windshield is bound to be dirty.
After its all done, sit back, watch your favorite football game and enjoy your winter, knowing your car will either be running fine all year, or be running fine next year.

Last edited by ArmyofOne; 11-16-11 at 07:05 AM.
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Old 11-14-11, 07:19 PM
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Thanks for putting this together Josh, and thanks for your service

Now that winter weather is approaching, we're seeing an uptick in threads about winterization, prep for snow and salty roads, etc. The CL moderator team in years past has gathered quite a collection of winter-related links that members might find helpful with the upcoming season.

We'll plan to update and add to this list from time-to-time and remember there are hundreds of similar threads not linked that you can easily find using forum search, many more recent than those linked below.

Recent winter tire tests courtesy of the Tire Rack


GS (Recent Experiences) (NE Driving Recommendations) (Snow and Ice how to) (What to do with snow & ice)]







Maintenance and Storage
This thread and

Safe driving everyone!

Last edited by DaveGS4; 11-14-11 at 07:46 PM.
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Old 12-06-11, 03:04 PM
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I might add that, if you are a regular user of your parking brake, you might consider not using it when it's bitterly cold out, or if you have just gone through the car wash. IF water gets in the cable sheathing, your parking brake may not release.
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Old 04-12-12, 07:28 PM
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Glad this came up, I can place some of this info into the LS400 FAQ so it is handy.

Last edited by RA40; 04-12-12 at 07:45 PM.
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Old 04-13-12, 05:36 PM
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Please man, feel free. It took me hours to put this together. LOL.
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Old 04-15-12, 02:20 AM
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I'll stay away from this, because I haven't seen snow in real life.
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Old 09-21-12, 07:14 PM
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Bump for another winter!
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Old 09-22-12, 07:14 PM
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Good stuff...thanks for your service!
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Old 10-28-12, 06:28 AM
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thanks for the information it was very useful..
have a good day
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Old 11-15-13, 05:29 AM
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thanks for this information ,
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Old 02-25-16, 07:02 PM
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Everyone will benefit from it.
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