Winter Vehicle Maintenance… Costing You Less In The Long Run

Canadian Winter Roads

Canadian Winter Roads

There are many winter vehicle maintenance jobs you need to do to get your vehicle ready for the cold seasonal temperatures. Ignoring your winter auto care is only asking for trouble which leads to money and time lost. Take care of your vehicle and it will take care of you costing you less over time in repairs. Having a winter vehicle checklist will help get your car ready for winter and will ensure you are taking care of the fundamentals.

Here are some items on my winter vehicle checklist that I do to keep our vehicles in tip-top condition.

  • Oil Spraying

When  I came to Canada Mrs CBB already had a newer vehicle and she got it “Krowned” every year. We still have this vehicle, it’s just under 10 years old and it’s still in mint condition inside and out. Sure the mileage is low but very little ever goes wrong with it either. None of the wiring is corroded, there’s no rusted through doors or rocker panels, it starts first time every time, never failed an e-test and has never broke down.

I’ll be the first to admit that getting your vehicle oil sprayed isn’t going to solve all your vehicle issues, good general maintenance is still key. Like my father, I always buy the Haynes manual for the particular vehicle/s we own. It’s a great resource if you don’t know how to repair problems as it’s pretty much step -by -step.

Remember that salt on your shoes kills the interior of your car too. We get the car cleaned out (most places do a salt removal package) at the end of winter.

  • Winter Tires.

I swap over the All-Season Tires to Winter Tires myself as most places charge approximately $40 and if you can do it yourself like I can save the money. Winter Tires provide more grip at colder temperatures as they are made of a softer compound rubber. Check the tire pressures as the pressure will fall as the temperature falls. Remember if you’re swapping over your own tires that the tires are on the correct side of the vehicle.

SONY DSC

Tip: Check the amount of tread left on the tires, built-in wear bar indicators will usually give you a good idea.

Winter Tire Wear Bar Indicators

Winter Tire Wear Bar Indicators

  • Wiper Blades and Wind-shield Washer Fluid.

Make sure the winter wipers are in good condition or swap out your summer blades for winter blades. Streaks across the wind-shield indicate the wiper blade is starting to fail. These streaks can interfere with your vision while driving.

Swap your washer fluid for a winter formula that won’t freeze. I usually buy a box of 4 jugs when it goes on special, it tends to be cheaper than single jugs and you know you’ll use it.

Tip: Always keep a jug of wind-shield washer fluid handy in your vehicle in the winter.

Winter Windshield Washer Fluid

Winter Windshield Washer Fluid

  • Oil Change.

If you’re going to do the oil change yourself make sure the viscosity is correct for the temperature range the vehicle will be subjected to. Personally I change my own engine oil and filter as I can get a $60+ oil change for $35. Check the manual that your vehicle comes with for further information.

Oil and Filter Vehicle

Oil and Filter Mobile 1 and Fram Filter

  • Fluid levels and condition.

You can check the coolant level and condition but you’ll need test strips or a refractometer to test it yourself . Most batteries these days are maintenance free so you can’t check the electrolyte in the cells. Personally I leave the battery on a long low amp charge to help reduce sulfation of the battery.

Battery Charging for Car

Charging Car Battery

Some auto repair shops will test your battery for you for free like Canadian Tire but beware, some electronic testers will fail a perfectly good battery. If in doubt get a second test on a carbon pile before running out to buy a new battery.

Check the power steering fluid level, brake fluid level, transmission level (for both standard and automatic) and the differential level if you have a rear wheel drive and transfer case if you have a more traditional 4×4.

  • Mild days and car washes.

It’s always worth taking the car to the self wash in the winter on mild days to wash off the salt build up. Be careful, don’t wash off the oil spraying you just got done! Just be careful, wet brakes tend to have less coefficient of friction, meaning they’re not going to brake as well as they would if they were dry.

  • Additives.

There’s a multitude of fuel and oil additives on the market, some of which are designed for the driver more than the car. Gasoline antifreeze seems to be a product bought by men that flies off the shelf, but I’d do a little research before adding anything. Gasoline is made with up to 10% ethanol (it’s stated right on the pump) which is alcohol and already has a much lower freeze point than water. Gasoline itself has a ridiculously low freeze point so why add it? If you do suffer from freezing gas lines on your car you’ve got other problems and it’s called water in your tank.

If you or your other half aren’t particularly handy most auto service centres run a winterization package that is likely worth every penny. Having a good winter vehicle is better than taking risks with your life and your pocket book. A little bit of maintenance goes a long way to preventing some vehicle issues and can cost you less in the long run.

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Mr. CBB
I’m from the UK and now a recent permanent resident in Canada. I bought my first house at the age of 21 after University then my second at the age of 24. I’ve always been fascinated with personal finance, savings, learning to make money and watch it grow while combating debts along the way. Canadian Budget Binder is a place where I get to share my experiences with personal finance and learn about yours along the way. I hope you stick around and check me out on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest where I am active on all social media sites. Cheers, Mr.CBB
Mr. CBB
Mr. CBB

Comments

  1. Great tips. I’m off to change my oil as we speak. What’s that old phrase that an ounce of prevention…

  2. These are great tips Mr. CBB. Luckily, we don’t really have bad winters here in North Carolina, so I don’t worry much about winterizing my car. I do take care of the usual as I am very handy with cars. It is my passion other than blogging about money.

    • You are all making me jealous that keep posting you get hardly any or no snow. I need a nice vacation home I think. You are right maintaining your vehicle during any season not just winter is important to prolong the life of the vehicle. Cheers mate!

  3. Great post. I’m off to get my oil changed as soon as I’m finished writing this. I’m glad you reminded me to check tire pressures, too. That’s something I have to remember and remind my teens about.

  4. I switched my winter tires over myself this year for the first time. It took about 45 minutes but it was certainly worth saving the $40 and it wasn’t difficult at all. I am definitely an advocate for winter tires as I saw a car slide through an intersection on Sunday as he was trying to stop for a light. He locked up his tires and slid head on into another car waiting to turn. No one was hurt but it could have been avoided with winter tires. Great post Mr. CBB!

    • Good For you!! My brother in law, took him 3 hours to do his tires. I told him next year I’ll do it for him, takes me 20 minutes or so as it’s super easy. I keep both sets on rims on all times so that helps as well. I’ve seen many many many vehicles in the ditch since moving here. Cheers mate.

  5. I am not switching to winter tires or oil spraying. They are GREAT things to do but I drive very short distances, my boyfriend has winter tires so worse come to worse I can take his car and my car is old and probably not going to last too much longer anyway. Once I get a car upgrade I do plan on putting in money to it to make sure it lasts!

    • It really depends on how long you want to keep your car in tip top shape.When you put some good money into a newer car like you mentioned you will you will want to protect it. Spending money on vehicles to buy them is such a waste so buy it once and take good care of it. I paid cash around $16k for my vehicle and over $30k for the wife so anything we can do to protect and prolong it from turning into a rust box on wheels is worth it to us long or short distant driving. We get tonnes of salt on the roads here so some vehicles look pretty rough. Winter tire make a huge difference to driving even I recognized since moving to Canada and is well documented. I’d recommend it although they aren’t cheap and you need storage for your all season. I installed a rack in the garage for our off season tires.

  6. John S @ Frugal Rules says:

    Good tips Mr. CBB! I’ve actually been thinking of writing a post on this as well. By doing a few things you can help set your car up well for the winter. Thankfully we realty don’t need special tires, but we do buy ones that do better I winter weather.

  7. I’d never heard of oil spraying before. But I do always change the oil when the whether starts getting colder so that it has a lower viscosity oil in there.

    • Hey!
      It’s an undercoating you can get that protects the vehicle from rust and corrosion in the winter from all the salt on the roads. It’s well worth the money.. we pay around $135 a year to get it done and our vehicle is almost 10 years old and is mint inside and out.

  8. Great tips. As someone who drives a rear wheel drive vehicle, I don’t know what I’d do without winter tires. Oh yea, not get very far!! :)

  9. I’m all about car maintenance, and love the Haynes manual! In the northwest, we don’t get extreme weather, so we don’t have salt on the roads or anything (luckily!). But having a good cold-start battery, proper fluid levels, and washing the gunk off can really extend the life of your car. Also, if you can, parking in the garage with help a ton!

    • We have a double garage and I park both vehicles inside. Honestly when I’m out and about I see some neighbours who have their garage filled to the rafters with stuff yet park their vehicles outside. Kinda defeats the purpose…don’t you think? Cheers Jacob!

  10. Another good way to prepare your car for winter! Move somewhere warm =)

    No need for winterizing down here in sunny FL!

  11. The main reason the boy got rims on his winters as well this year was so we can change the tires out themselves. Otherwise, he was paying almost $200 to switch out his tires every year! Crazy!

    So vacation home in Florida, hey? :)

    • I wish a vacation home anywhere hot.. preferably in Europe.. but anything hot will do. Yes it’s so worth it to get the rims as they will pay for themselves if you do the job yourself. He’s a smart bloke.

  12. We try to be very diligent with our car maintenance all year long. We use studded tires in the winter for safety and longevity. We get tires for twice as long. We also check to make sure we have the right window fluid. Freezing those pipes with the summer stuff sucks.

    • One thing I always do is keep back up in the vehicle of a good winter window fluid. There’s nothing like running out when you are on the highway or when driving and slush and salt is getting kicked up on the windows. Such a bad safety hazard. Cheers and thanks for dropping in. Mr.CBB

  13. We are receiving gobs of snow and need to put the winter tires on soon-ish (as in, like, yesterday.) M. luckily does most of the car maintenance outlined above. I however would just let my car fall apart around me!

  14. Christine Weadick says:

    We winterize the truck every year…. letting the garage we use to do the work, they check things over and give a tune up but only if needed. We trust these guys to do what needs doing. They switch out the tires for us and have let us know in the past if a tire or two will need replacing in the near future. ‘You’ll need 2 new all seasons come spring there…. I’ll start looking for a deal for you and get back to you’ …. kind of thing. We keep an eye on the washer fluid levels all the time. We just had the truck in for it’s oil undercoat and haven’t seen the bill yet but I think Jeff said it would be around $80.00. They do it there, not some where else. May not be Krown exactly but it still works fine. The truck is a 1998 and still in pretty good shape. It’s a truck…. we don’t exactly baby it much…..

    • Good for you at least you are being proactive about getting the work done. We always get Krown but that doesn’t mean it’s the only undercoating out there. Take care of the car and it will take care of you. Cheers Christine!!

      • Christine Weadick says:

        With weekly trips into London for medical appointments we need reliable so we do keep an eye on things. In a pinch I’d likely be able to get a loaner from the shop but if I can avoid it I will. I’m just crossing my fingers for the weather this winter. Every Wed we go…. But if the roads are open I can make it. I’ve driven in some truly nasty conditions between here and there…….

  15. We don’t have to do too much winterizing, but you just reminded me that I need to get my back tires replaced. For some reason car things are at the bottom of my list of things I want to be doing. blech!

  16. I have nominated you for Blog of the Year 2012 Award. You can see it here: http://wp.me/pZNV9-1d8 Congrats!

  17. I’ve always switched out to snow tires for my commute to the mountain town I’ve work in for years, but I don’ have to go that much this year, so we did not get new snow tires. We try to keep our 4×4 truck in the garage until we need it for weather. Thankfully, they don’t use salt here. It is a killer. I did hit a deer on my way home tonight. Nothing to do with winter, but I’m still shaken up so watch for wildlife if you aren’t in the city!

  18. Where I live temperatures often get down for -30C in the winter, so winterization is a necessity. I always get winter tires on but there are a lot of things on this list that I hadn’t thought of! I’ll be forwarding this to my hubby to see if he’s up for any of these money saving tips.

  19. Thankfully they don’t use salt on the roads here, so car bodies tend to last a lot longer than in Ontario. Unfortunately, I haven’t had my tires swapped yet (plan for this wknd) and the two times I’ve had to drive the truck since the weather switched were not so hot! The car is handling much better, due to its fancy tires!

  20. Living Debt Free Rocks! says:

    Very useful advice! In Quebec where I lived for most of my life I’m glad the province made it mandatory a few years ago to put on snow tires during the winter months or face a fine if caught. I’ve been able to maintain my 7+ year old car in near mint condition because of regular maintainance. My husband is near anal about checking fluids, tire pressure, and any parts that may appear to be corroded.

  21. My husband is so funny – he’s a southern guy, and didn’t realize there were a such thing as snow tires until he went up north for school! I’m a native of the Great Lakes, so that’s a way of life for us!

  22. Thanks for the reminder to check the anti-freeze! It got down to 43 degrees last night, burrr!

  23. Thanks for the reminder to check the anti-freeze! The temperature dropped to 43 degrees last night, burrr!

  24. a few years back I used to take for granted storage…. just parking the car in my fathers barn, sometimes I go so far as to cover it with a tarp. But I learned the hard way as corrosion got the underbelly pretty bad and had a mouse problem in the interior…all in the same winter! found this to help also… http://www.thinkinsure.ca/car-auto-insurance-tips/Insurance-and-Winter-Storage-Tips-for-your-Classic-Car-in-Ontario.html
    Jon D.

  25. Joanna Cheevers says:

    What a very well written blog post. Everyone that has to drive in winter weather should read it to make sure they are prepared. It just flabbergasts me the number of car owners that don’t know how to check the air pressure in a tire or how to top up washer fluid, should be mandatory in order to get your driver’s license.

  26. Our milder winters here on the coast mean a different routine. Undercoating is not as essential since they don’t salt the roads as much. That having been said, there is still some salt, so trips through the car wash are important. I keep my all season radials on the car year-round. We have only a few snowy/very icy days each year. On those days, I simply park the car and walk or take the bus. Our rainy weather makes good wiper blades and a stock of windshield washer fluid extra important. My car is under warranty so it gets taken for servicing, including oil changes, on a specific schedule. (I’m all girly-girl about that and choose not to do it myself.)

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