Do you need to winterize your car? The short answer is probably not. Winterizing cars was a must 25 years ago. Today’s cars no longer need this “additional” service, as all car maintenance needs are addressed during regular routine service, according to factory guidelines.
But do you need to do anything extra during the winter months?
If you are following your manufacturer’s maintenance procedures exactly, the answer is no. The trouble is that very few follow actually maintain cars according to manufacturer guidelines.
If you fall into this latter category, then it’s a good idea to:
- Check your battery (consider replacing it if it’s 4 years or older)
- Check your tires (inflation, tread-depth, check for damage—cracking, splits, side-wall damage…etc)
- Check your anti-freeze (strength, condition…most anti-freeze needs to be flushed every 2 years, but some can last 15—follow the manufacturer guidelines so you don’t spend more than necessary)
- Check your wiper blades. (Regular blades are adequate. Winter blades help a little by reducing ice build-up in the frame of the blade. Wiper blades generally get replaced every 6 months.)
- Check your washer solvent (fill up your washer bottle all the way…put the extra in your trunk. Avoid the orange stuff—it stains your paint, and everything else it touches)
- Wax your car before the roads get salted (this helps to keeps the elements from destroying your paint)
IMPORTANT: I wouldn’t call any of the above “Winterization” (except…maybe, a few dollars’s worth of washer fluid). It’s more like catch up.
If you can, get out of the “catch-up” category, as you’ll end up paying extra money unnecessarily to maintain your car. Some winterization specials are $300 to $400!
Winterization service, in many ways, is a classic “fear-tactic” marketing attempt. This is not to say that you shouldn’t have it done if you tend to neglect regular vehicle maintenance. It can be a valuable service.
At the same time, your chances of being stranded—like the photo of a mom holding her baby on the side of the road talking anxiously on her cell phone in the rain—are slim.
Winter months certainly do create anxiety about automotive troubles. Just as important as mechanical maintenance, is body maintenance. One of the most neglected needs of a car is the paint. It needs wax! Protecting your vehicle’s paint during the winter months of salt, snow, and the elements is critical to keeping a healthy shine, and maintaining your vehicle’s value.
So many cars are destroyed because they’ve never had a coat of wax. The paint’s faded, the clear coat’s peeling, and it’s covered with scuffs and scratches that could have easily been prevented with a little bit of wax.
Consider having your car professionally detailed (at least the exterior) before the winter, and once in the spring.
In sum, winterization is a misnomer. It’s no longer a necessary service on today’s vehicles provided they’re being maintained properly. If your vehicle has not been maintained according to the manufacturer, have it checked over by a professional service center to determine what it “actually” needs. Don’t just spend money for a “Winterization Special!”