Is Your Car Ready for Winter in Portland & Vancouver?

How to Make Sure Your Car is Ready for Winter

Winter is here or at least just around the corner and for many drivers that also means the challenges of owning a car in the winter are also here, like icy roads, freezing temperatures, salted roads, and while we might not get a lot of it here in the Pacific Northwest; snow. Here are a few tips to make sure your car at least is ready to take on the winter months and comes out running good come spring. And, make sure you have a good understanding of how to drive safely in the snow.


Check Your Lights

The sun is setting earlier which, naturally, means that it is getting darker earlier and earlier and the commute home that used to be bathed in sunlight is now covered in black with the twinkle of car lights passing the opposite way.

Car driving during winter snowstorm. Motion blur.

You’ll want to do everything possible to make sure all of your vehicle’s lights are in excellent shape and lighting up the night sky as well as they can. If a bulb is out, fix it before the nights start getting really really long. Also, be sure to check your lights to see if they are covered by any snow during that one-to-two-week snowstorm that plagues the Portland Metro and Southwest Washington area every year. If your headlights are foggy or are yellowing, you should consider replacing them or look into an easy restoration kit.

If you need help checking your lights you can make a reservation at any one of our service departments –> here.


Maintain the Battery

Batteries tend to have to work harder in cold weather as opposed to warmer weather, so a battery that may have had some trouble getting going this last summer could just be completely dead after a few cold nights come winter. The best course of action here is running a volt test on your battery. If the charge is in the green, then you should be good to go. If the charge is in the yellow or red, you might want to consider changing that out for a new one before winter leaves you stranded with a dead battery somewhere.


Flush & Fill

Here is a big one, before you do anything on this list, you are going to want to make sure your car isn’t low on coolant, also known as antifreeze. While you’re at it, give your engine a once over, make sure there aren’t any leaks that could cause coolant to drain out. Coolant is essential to winter driving because that is the stuff that keeps the engine from freezing in the colder temperatures, hence “antifreeze.”

transportation, winter, people and vehicle concept - closeup of man pouring antifreeze into car

Want to make sure your fluid levels are ready to take on the cold? Schedule an appointment with one of our Service Stars today!


Top Off Gas & Washer Fluid

It is always a good move to keep your gasoline and washer fluid topped off during winter. You should keep your gas tank full for a couple of reasons. First, a full tank will keep water from accumulating and freezing in your fuel pump. Second, it will allow you to keep your engine running longer, and there for you heat running longer just in case you get stuck somewhere while braving the winter-fied roads.

Your windshield wiper fluid is another liquid you might not think you need during the wintertime but let’s face it, we’ve all been driving on wet, dirty roads before. It is always amazing how much dirt and debris can somehow make it up on the windshield. Keeping your washer fluid primed, full, and ready to work will help to ensure that you won’t have to pull over to clean your windshield in the middle of a downpour while driving home one night.


Time to Invest

Winter tires are a must. All-wheel-drive, even 4-wheel-drive, can give you a boost of confidence that your car can go wherever you need it to go in whatever weather you need to brave. And that might be true. But what All-wheel drive and 4-wheel drive don’t help with it the turning and braking part. At this point, all of us have seen what a winter disaster zone I-5 and 205 turn in to the second a snowflake hits the ground and the rush to get home means people getting stuck or going for a whirl trying to get off the freeway. Winter tires are more capable of remaining flexible at low temperatures which means that they provide much better traction when you’re trying to stop and turn on a cold road, regardless of snow. Depending on how you drive and where you plan on going this winter, consider getting either Winter Tires or All-Season Tires.

Closeup of car tires in winter on the road covered with snow.

It seems to be getting colder every winter nowadays so investing in good winter tires, or better yet, get some studded tires to rock for a few months, is definitely a move you should think about making.


Under Pressure

If you don’t invest in some beastly winter tires then you at least need to make sure you are paying close attention to your tire pressure. Good tires are kind of essential to staying on the road and staying safe when the weather takes a turn for the worse.

Check your tire pressure with a simple gauge sold at any auto supply store or even your local gas station. Check your owner’s manual for the precise pressure that is supposed to be in your tires and then if you find the pressure low in a few or all of your tires simply fill them up at the gas station. Most gas stations offer free tire air fill-ups, just have to ask.

While you are down by your tires checking to see if they have enough air, you should also check your tread depth. The simplest test is the “Lincoln test” where you insert a penny into your tire’s tread with the top of Lincoln’s head pointing inward toward the tire. If you can see all of Lincoln’s head, you need to replace your tires, and depending on how soon winter and ice will be here, you’ll need to change them soon.


Defrost & Heat

Before the temperature really drops and it starts taking an extra hour to warm up your car, you need to be sure to check your car’s window defroster and its climate controls to make sure everything is working properly. I don’t think we really need to go into what the defroster and the climate control are, hopefully, you already know how to turn the heat on. Making sure these features are up and running will be essential for maintaining the necessary heat to keep the ice from building up on your windows and you and your passengers warm in your car during whatever winter outing you may be braving.

Shot of a man removing snow from his car during cold winters evening.


Survival Kit

While this one isn’t necessarily a car care tip, it is a winter preparedness tip and one that you should definitely think about investing in before hitting the roads. A survival kit can seem like overkill but when it is 2 AM on a Monday and you’re stuck on the side of the road heading home from Bend, OR and there aren’t any cars on the road and you haven’t seen one drive by in more than a while, that survival kit might not seem so farfetched. Select a survival kit that has a blanket, a first-aid kit, a knife, a flashlight, jumper cables, and a cellphone charger that works in your car’s cigarette lighter. It’s not a bad idea to keep a shovel, sand and some de-icer spray in the car as well just in case you are stuck or need to access the engine or trunk if it is frozen shut.


Winter driving doesn’t have to be stressful. Following these few tips can make both you and your car ready to take on the frigid cold and win. If you have any questions or need any parts or accessories to optimize your ride for winter don’t hesitate to contact our parts or service departments. Our teams will make sure that you’ll be ready to take on whatever winter can throw at us, schedule your car’s winterization today!

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