Tips on winterizing your car to avoid those holiday travel mishaps

Thanksgiving break is coming up and I know that many of you will be driving home to enjoy the festivities. By this time of year, many areas are already covered in snow or will be soon enough. Now is the time to think about winterizing your car., the unofficial guide to the DMV has some fantastic pointers!

Engine Oil

During the winter months, temperatures can dip well below freezing. This can cause your oil to thicken up. It is recommended that you switch to thinner oil (less viscous). If you run 10W-30 in the summer, for example, try 5W-30.

Engine Coolant

Yeah engine coolant does keep your engine from overheating which you might think, “It’s winter! No worries!” Yeah, kind of. Really your engine coolant is there to maintain an optimal temperature for your car while it protects your car against corrosion. And you know that salt they put down on the road? Guess what it does to your car. So check your owner’s manual and make sure that you have the proper winter ratio (usually 60% coolant, 40% water). Also, use the coolant with ethylene glycol. If your car were Popeye, ethylene glycol would be spinach.


Ever notice that everyone’s car dies during the first cold snap? Ever wonder why? Well it’s because the amount of charge your battery can carry is greatly reduced when it’s cold out. The charge it holds at 70 degrees is not the same at 30 degrees. So before the cold hits, make sure your battery fluid is topped off (use distilled water since you don’t want minerals in there). And check the charge! Anything below 12.0V should be replaced. Any auto parts store will be happy to check the charge for free!

Snow tires

In Kansas, this really isn’t much of an issue since we don’t have constant snow on the ground. But if you are headed to, say, Boulder, CO for your vacation time, you might want to consider changing your tires. And regardless of the type of tires you have on your vehicle, make sure they are inflated properly! Remember that air contracts in cold weather and expands in hot.


Just go ahead and replace your wiper blades and put a clear coat on your windshield. This will make it easier to keep your windshield clean. You also might want to replace your wiper fluid with something that contain anti-freeze. But be careful as some hard-core fluids can damage your paint.

Emergency kit

If you were to do only one thing, this is the one you should do. Make yourself an emergency kit!

  • Flares
  • Blankets
  • Boots
  • Radio
  • Flashlight
  • Energy bars
  • Water
  • First aid kit
  • Candles and matches
  • Collapsing shovel

Also make sure your cell phone is fully charged before you head out!

So you have just over a week to get all of this done before Thanksgiving break! Go to it!

W. Blake Wilson
Instructional & Research Services Librarian