Planning a Road Trip in the Winter? Here Are 15 Things to Put On Your Auto Maintenance Checklist

With the holiday season finally rolling in, it’s time to think about your upcoming travel plans. If you’re hoping to spend some time away from home, you’re likely going to take a long trip in your car.

Since it’s winter, you need to plan adequately or risk suffering serious consequences. A car towing experience is never fun when you want to enjoy a nice car trip. Just like you will plan for the protection of your home when traveling during the seasons, asphalt sealcoating and garage door repair come to mind, you have to plan for your winter trips. This auto maintenance checklist will help you make sure you’re taking good care of your car before you head out for a long trip in the icy months.

1. Get Your Battery Tested

The very first thing on your auto maintenance checklist has to be checking your battery. Few things could be worse than getting stranded on the side of the road when it’s cold just because you didn’t make sure your battery was in good condition.

Your entire car, everything from the radio to the engine, relies on your battery, and it needs to be able to power it all. The cold can have an impact on your battery because not only does it need to keep the vehicle running, it needs to warm itself as well.

Also, engine oil tends to thicken when it’s colder outside, which means your battery will have to work harder to move it where it should go. As such, your battery can let you down when you need it most if you don’t do proper maintenance.

2. Get Jumper Cables

While we’re on the topic of checking your battery, don’t forget to have jumper cables in your car at all times. It’s especially important to have jumper cables if you’re planning a road trip. These cables, as you probably know, are essential for giving your car a jump start with the help of a fellow motorist.

Even if you don’t have the need for jumper cables on your trip, it is quite possible that you may need to help someone else who has run into battery problems.

3. Check Your Windshield Wipers

Can you think of anything more frustrating than driving and turning on your wipers to get the snow off your windshield, only to find that they’re not working? Or even worse, they’re making it harder to see.

Using old wiper blades is never a good idea because they can smudge your view and even scratch your windshield glass. Along with making a horrible noise! That’s why it’s essential that you check your wipers before taking a long trip.

Generally, it’s a good idea to replace your windshield wipers every six months, or at least once a year. If you’re taking a trip and haven’t replaced your wipers in a while, you might as well get it over with. You should also consider switching over to winter wiper blades that will work well no matter how bad the weather gets.

4. Check Your Wiper Fluid

While we’re discussing windshield wipers and making a comprehensive auto maintenance checklist, don’t forget to check your wiper fluid as well. Driving during the cold months will make your wipers work harder and they’ll require much more fluid to perform their intended tasks.

It’s a good idea to check your wiper fluid regularly so that you never run out or don’t have enough to properly lubricate your windshield wipers.

Since you’ll be driving during the winter, you may have to switch over to a wiper fluid that is made for cold temperatures. There are brands of wiper fluid that are better for use in freezing situations and they’ll help your wipers perform a lot better.

5. Get an Oil Change

Another essential entry on any auto maintenance checklist, no matter the time of the year, is an oil change. It’s even more important during the winter because of how much harder your car will be working in the cold.

Regular oil changes will extend your car’s life, and if you want to avoid poor engine performance and sludgy oil, you’ll have to change your oil often. Also, it’s best to head over to a car repair shop or garage to buy oil that is rated for cold resistance. Even if you feel you don’t need an oil change because you changed your oil just the other day, it’s better to be safe rather than sorry when on a long trip, especially in the winter.

6. Get Winter Tires

Winter tires are an important entry on our auto maintenance checklist because without them you could risk your safety on the road. Note that winter tires aren’t just a new pair of tires that says ‘winter’ on the side. They’re actually made to be used during this icy season and make driving much safer than standard tires.

Winter tires have better traction so they have increased stopping power, and you get to enjoy improved handling as well, which means you won’t have difficulty controlling your car. Before you start your winter road trip, get winter tires and ensure the safety of yourself and your passengers.

If you plan to be moving heavy items around or use trailers for baggage, make sure the trailers are adequately equipped to deal with winter road conditions. If you’re planning a trip in a motorhome, it is best to visit a motorhome mechanic who will guide you on how to ensure the vehicle is safe for long trips in winter.

7. Check Your Coolant Level

Next on our auto maintenance checklist is making sure that you double-check your coolant level before embarking on a winter road trip. You need to keep your engine’s fluids flowing effectively and when it gets cold, your engine’s antifreeze is supposed to help with this.

You have to fill your car’s cooling system with a mixture of half antifreeze and half distilled water to avoid overheating as well as freezing. As such, you need to check the coolant level of your engine before you go on a trip to ensure everything flows as it should.

Coolant also helps to protect your car against corrosion and rust. It does so far better than normal water, so ensuring your coolant is at a good level is highly beneficial for your car.

8. Do a Tread inspection

Staying safe on the road is obviously something that matters to you, and you can ensure your safety by checking the tread of your tires. If you have winter tires that you’re going to use and they’re not brand new, you need to do a tread inspection.

It is especially important to check your tires’ tread during the winter because you’ll be driving through snow and on wet roads, and tires that are in good condition tread-wise will perform much better. Also, your tread affects how well you’re able to brake, an essential part of road safety.

Although you can check your tire tread yourself, it’s highly recommended that you ask an expert to check on your behalf so you don’t make a costly mistake.

9. Test Your Heater and Defroster

Your car’s heater and defroster are important because they keep things warm and clear. Your defroster has to keep the windshield clear on the inside as well as the outside. The heater is there to keep you and your passengers comfy and warm when it’s frosty outside.

Do yourself a huge favor and ensure that your defroster and heater both work before you embark on a winter road trip. If you find that they’re not in tip-top condition, it’s time to visit a trusted mechanic to get them in the best possible condition for your trip.

10. Fill Your Gas Tank

Next on our auto maintenance checklist is making sure that your gas tank is full. This may seem to you like it should go without saying, but forgetting to fill up is a common mistake that folks make and regret later.

It’s a good idea to start your winter road trip on a full tank of gas instead of only filling somewhat and thinking you’ll fill up on gas as you drive. As you travel, keep the gas tank as full as possible so you can continue to use your heater.

11. Protect Your Finish

This may not sound like something that is worthy of being added to your auto maintenance checklist, but protecting your car’s finish is important, regardless of the season.

During the winter months, road salt is used on the road to keep drivers safe, and this salt can lead to corrosion on your finish. All it takes is one small crack in your car’s exterior for snow and road salt to cause damage. That’s why it’s important that you protect the exterior by using good sealants before you go on a trip.

12. Check Your Lights

Before you start your winter road trip, you have to check your car’s lights. If there are any burned-out bulbs in your tail lights or headlights, they must be replaced immediately. Driving during the winter can get pretty dark, and you will need your lights for safety and to see on the road.

You have to ensure that your turn signals, brake lights, and emergency flashers also work as they should. It’s a good idea to keep replacements in your car, as well as a high-quality flashlight for emergency use.

13. Measure the Tires’ Air Pressure

After you’ve checked that your tires’ tread is good enough for winter driving, you also need to check their air pressure. Your tires are essential for your driving safety, and neglecting to check the air pressure can lead to hazardous situations.

Not only will driving with improper air pressure cause serious damage to your tires but your car’s handling and ride will be negatively affected as well. On top of that, you’ll get poorer fuel economy as a result of improper air pressure.

14. Give Your Car a Thorough Check-up

Although it’s good to do a lot of checking on your own, you may be better off heading to a mechanic as well.

A professional will be able to give your car another inspection and can do a thorough and proper check-up on the car’s engine hoses, all fluids like power steering and transmission, and the brakes.

Auto brake repair can be costly, so getting regular check-ups, especially before long trips, is essential. If you neglect these check-ups you could end up with malfunctions or problems on the road.

15. Get Insurance

Last but not least on our auto maintenance checklist is car insurance if you don’t already have it. Car accident lawyers can be highly expensive and having car insurance can help lessen the blow to your bank account.

Even the most meticulous planning can’t ensure that nothing will go wrong on your trip, so invest in car insurance just in case something doesn’t go according to plan or if you suddenly find yourself in a difficult situation.

Car accidents are the most common problems that can happen, but honestly, anything can go wrong, so it’s best to be prepared.

Bonus Tip: Pack Tools for the Snow and Ice

When you plan your winter road trip, it’s of the utmost importance that you ensure your car is in good condition and ready for the long road ahead. But once that’s done, there is more planning to do. It is just as important that you pack the necessary tools for a road trip that possibly involves snow and ice.

Have a shovel and scraper in your car and also pack any other survival items you feel are necessary. Having a backpack dedicated to survival is a good idea, and you should pack items such as energy bars, bottled water, matches, and so on.

Have Fun on Your Road Trip and Stay Safe!

Getting on the road during winter can feel a lot riskier than at any other time of the year, but with this auto maintenance checklist, you’ll be able to rest assured that you’ve taken all the precautions you need for safe trips. Keep in mind that if you want to travel with pets, things might be different. Plan accordingly, stay safe, and above all, have fun!

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