With the cool winds blowing and the leaves changing, it’s time to consider prepping your car—and yourself—for winter. Or, at the very least, gathering all the necessary tools and consumables to save your future self time, money, and a whole lot of headaches. Just one note: These are general approaches to surviving winter, automotively speaking. This isn’t a catchall for every scenario that you might face in the struggle of protecting your car through harsh winter months.
We also looked at getting your collector car or more rust-prone ride ready to stash for the winter months. Rounding out the list, we have some suggestions to keep you busy when you can’t enjoy your car.
Unfortunately, those living in the frozen tundra of the East and Midwest will have to get around somehow when the snow starts to fly. That’s why it’s a good idea to have some level of preparedness for winter driving mishaps. And we’re not talking about a temporary move to California or Texas.
- Battery Jump Starter
Batteries don’t like the cold. Winter tends to be cold. With that in mind, it might not be the worst idea to bring along a compact battery jump starter. Obviously, this will help you in the case of a dead or dying battery, but it could also save you money, costing less than one tow-truck call.
A nice, heavy blanket might seem like an emergency-use-only tool to keep in your trunk; yes, you want one in case you’re stranded near Fargo, North Dakota, and don’t have any other option to stay warm, but you can also use your emergency blanket for picnics in the warm months.
- Ice Scraper
This is an obvious must-have. For those with early-morning commutes, an ice scraper is an essential piece for liberating your car from the icy grip of winter. A good scraper will be resilient, efficient, and somewhat ergonomic. An ice scraper with a brush will make for an effective all-in-one tool that deals with ice and powder snow.
When you’re in the thick of a winter event, you might find yourself buried in a parking lot or driveway without any reasonable way to get out. Having a small collapsible shovel in your car could come in more than handy if the time comes.
- Traction Mat
The last piece of a snow emergency kit centers around the limited traction you’ll often find in wintry conditions. Be it ice or snow, you might find yourself in a position where your tires just can’t get any bite. Enter: a traction mat. Throw these in front of your drive wheels, and you should be scooting away without any further problems.
You don’t need to explain it to me: I get it. It’s hard to spend so much time and money on your beloved car only to see it consumed by the insatiable Mother Nature. That’s why I’m a huge advocate of stashing your most rust-vulnerable cars for the winter, if that’s an option. There’s plenty on your spring car-care checklist without adding rust repair to the must-dos.
- Fuel Stabilizer
In a lot of car circles, gasoline might be the second most discussed fluid your car will see, maybe second only to the hotly debated world of engine oils. Regardless, what we do know is that gasoline doesn’t like to age. Fuel stabilizers such as Sta-Bil help slow fuel oxidation, ensuring you don’t have a fuel tank full of varnish come spring.
- Car Cover
A good-quality breathable car cover will help keep dust and debris from falling on your prized possession. This will not only give you a head start with your springtime detail but will also help prevent any accidental scratches that can happen in storage.
- Battery Float Charger
If you don’t have a master power switch, as you’d find on a race car, there is likely something drawing power from your battery at all times, be that a clock, the memory for the computer, or a dome light that you like to leave on, even when the car is off. A battery tender will help float-charge your battery, prolonging its life and making your life easier in the future.
- Dryer Sheets
This one is more controversial, but it’s how I operate. Your car is a nice, relatively warm place that pests can turn into a home—especially when you’re not moving it for months on end. To try to keep mice from making your vintage sled a motel, you might consider throwing a few dryer sheets into the interior and engine bay. Apparently strong smells are a mouse deterrent. Make sure to remove these before your next time starting the car.
Oh, yeah, it’s going to get cold. If you’re storing a liquid-cooled vehicle, you want to make sure that coolant isn’t going to freeze. You can use a hydrometer, but I prefer breaking out the refractometer to see exactly when the coolant could freeze. From there, it’s just a matter of adjusting the coolant mixture to make sure you don’t find carnage come spring.
With your car in winter storage, it might be easy to think that you can’t still enjoy cars. If you don’t have a heated garage and don’t want to suffer through doing winter maintenance on your car, here are a few other ways you can still enjoy the automotive world without having to spin a wrench.
If you can’t drive your car, why not crack open a good book next to a fire and read about them? Reading is a good escape from the winter blues, and it’s always fun to learn more about the automotive world in which you live.
- Video Games
Don’t want to read? Well, why not live the life of a racer without dealing with most of the major costs that come with auto racing? You will need either a gaming console or a computer that can handle the rigors of running modern video games, but titles such as Gran Turismo Sport or Forza Motorsport 7 are great ways to pass the cold winter months.
Remember building car models? I know I do. While you might not have considered modeling as an adult pastime, it is a fun way to stay engaged in the car hobby while staying warm.
Sit back, relax, and enjoy a good movie. Throwing on a copy of Grand Prix, Two-Lane Blacktop, or The Fast and The Furious makes for a great way to spend an evening while still enjoying the car hobby from the comfort of your couch.
- Slot Cars
Getting into slot car racing can become an expensive hobby, but it does take all of the fun of modeling and throws it on a track. Slot-car tracks handle a variety of scale models, so make sure the track you plan on running is right for the car you want to race.