Preparing Your Vehicle for Winter in Wisconsin

It’s that time of the year again. Even though summer temperatures are hanging around, it’s not too early to prepare for another winter. In Wisconsin, you never know what the weather will be, so it’s important to make sure your vehicle is ready to take on anything that nature sends your way.

Winterizing your car, truck, SUV, or van can take a while, so it’s good to get an early start. Here are some preparations you can make to ensure safe winter driving, and help to prolong the life of your vehicle through rough weather conditions.

Pay attention to your tires

When it comes to safe winter driving, there are few things more important than having good tires. If you live in southern Wisconsin, especially the Lake Superior snowbelt, snow tires are a great investment. These tires have extra-deep tread to help keep you from slipping and sliding on snow-covered or icy roads.

At the least, you should consider new all-weather radials with a good tread, no matter where you live. You should also make sure that your tires are inflated to the proper PSI (pounds per square inch)—colder temperatures contract the air and cause air pressure in your tires to drop.

Winterizing under the hood

Before winter sets in, you should make sure to have everything in your vehicle’s engine compartment checked for wear or damage that could lead to serious problems when the temperatures fall. If you’ve been putting off an oil change or tune-up, now is the time to have your vehicle serviced.

Other items to check under the hood include:

  • Radiator: Make sure you have at least a 50/50 mix of antifreeze and water, as a higher water content can freeze in the radiator and cause damage. You should also check radiator hoses for cracks or other signs of wear.
  • Belts and hoses: Inspect all of your vehicle’s hoses and belts, to make sure they’re in good condition and not ready to burst or snap in cold weather.
  • Fluids: Check all fluid levels, including the radiator, transmission, engine oil, brake fluid, and windshield washer reservoir. Top off or change fluids as needed.
  • Battery: Car batteries are less efficient in cold temperatures, and older batteries may not be able to start your engine when it’s cold. If your battery is more than 3 years old, have it tested for charge capacity and replace if needed.

Winter preparations for your vehicle’s interior

While the mechanical aspects of your car are essential for winterization, you should also prepare the interior for poor weather conditions. Snow, slush, and road salt tracked through your vehicle can not only damage the carpets, but may also erode the flooring beneath. Removable floor mats are a good solution for protecting your vehicle’s interior.

Finally, put together a roadside emergency kit to keep in your vehicle for the winter. Include items that will help you survive freezing weather if your car breaks down by the side of the road, and get back on the road faster if possible. Your emergency kit should contain:

  • Blankets or extra clothing
  • Jumper cables or a portable jump station
  • Flashlight, flares, and waterproof matches
  • A first-aid kit
  • Non-perishable food, such as energy bars or trail mix
  • An ice scraper and small shovel
  • Bags of sand or kitty litter to provide extra traction for stuck vehicles

Getting a head start on preparing your vehicle for winter will help you head into the season with peace of mind, knowing that you’re ready for any Wisconsin weather.