Helpful Hints for Better Vehicle Performance in Cold Weather

Winterizing Your Vehicle

Winter weather not only makes special demands on you when driving, but also on your vehicle.  To avoid problems this winter, be prepared.  The following tips can help you avoid an unpleasant or even dangerous situation this winter.

1. Get your oil checked.

Make sure you take your car in for a full oil change before the really cold weather approaches.  When the air gets colder, it gets thicker.  Thicker oil will not circulate as well, and may make it harder to start your engine.   Be sure to check your manual, because you might need to change to an oil with less viscosity (a thinner oil than you would use in summer time).[1] For instance, some vehicle manufacturers recommend 10w-40 in the summer and 5w-30 in the winter.[2]

2. Check your windshield and wiper blades, and replace if necessary.

If your windshield has a little crack or chip, you’ll want to get it fixed. Freezing temperatures cause those damaged places to become worse; cracks can widen and a hole may open up suddenly.  You don’t want that to happen in the middle of a snow storm or at night on a highway.   Make sure your wiper blades are in good condition to be able to clear the snow or slush so you have good visibility. Be sure to keep your windshield wiper fluid filled.  As we get snow and chemicals are spread on the roads, the contaminants build up.  You’ll want to be sure to keep your windshield clear of any residue that could affect your vision.

3.  Check the battery.

“The chemical reactions inside of batteries take place more slowly when the battery is cold, so the battery produces fewer electrons. The starter motor therefore has less energy to work with when it tries to start the engine, and this causes the engine to crank slowly.”[3] Clear any corrosion that has built up on the battery ports or connections.  If your battery is older, you may want a certified mechanic check to be sure it will maintain a charge.  Some batteries need fluid added.

4.  Check your radiator and radiator fluid.

The antifreeze in your car radiator serves three main functions: heat transfer, corrosion protection, and freeze-boil protection.[4] Typically, antifreeze should be close to a 50% mixture between water and antifreeze.[5] Your owner’s manual will show you how to check the radiator fluid level, and you can get an inexpensive coolant mixture tester kit at most auto repair stores to see if you have the right mix.  (Oftentimes adding water in the summer when the radiator overflows or water evaporates can lead to a mixture that has too little antifreeze to properly protect your engine from cold in the winter.)

5.  Check your tire tread depth and tire pressure.

Excessive wear resulting in inadequate tire tread depth can cause tires to lose traction and slide more easily on wet, snowy or icy roads. Virginia law states that tires must have at least 2/32’s of an inch of tread, and must not have worn through to tread wear indicators, if the tires have such indicators.[6] “Higher temperatures in the summer cause the air in your tires to expand, and the pressure rises; as air temperatures cool in the fall and winter, the air contracts and the pressure falls.  A tire that was properly inflated for the summer will probably be underinflated in the winter.  Experts estimate that every time the outside temperature drops ten degrees,the air pressure inside your tires goes down about one or two PSI. Tires also lose air normally through the process of permeation. Under-inflated tires can cause a car to react more slowly to steering. Drivers should check their tire pressures frequently during cold weather, adding enough air to keep them at recommended levels of inflation at all times.”[7]Winter weather requires foresight and preparation from a driver, as well as more attention and focus.  Check your vehicle as indicated above, and concentrate on your driving.  Hang up the cell phone and pay attention to your driving, so we can all get where we are going safely.

About the Author: Kathleen is a Fredericksburg car accident lawyer. She additionally handles many types of personal injury cases including truck accidents and pedestrian accidents in Fredericksburg, Garrisonville and the surrounding areas.?

[1] For more information on winterizing your vehicle see
[2] Viscosity numbers for engine oil are very important, as different engines run at different temperatures, and run optimally with different viscosity (or thickness) of oil.  You should also know wheterh your vehicle has natural or synthetic oil, so oil changes or additions can be made with the For more information, see
[4] For more information on antifreeze, see
[7] For more information about tires and safe driving, see