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Summary
  • Your vehicle needs more care during winter.
  • Some nifty hacks to survive the season include rubbing onion to the windshield to prevent frost problems and using a penny to determine whether your tires are winter-ready.
  • It’s also best to keep your windshield and windows clear, drive slowly, and avoid leaving your vehicle unattended in case of a breakdown.

Your daily driver is not alive, but that doesn’t mean it won’t need anything to survive for thousands of miles. Aside from regular maintenance, your vehicle also needs extra tender loving care when it comes to certain seasons一especially winter.

The cold days can be tough on your vehicle, but with these clever hacks, you won’t need to worry about getting a mechanic to fix its problems.

Clever Car Tricks for the Winter Season

Check out some of these nifty tricks to keep your vehicle in tip-top shape during winter.

Windshield

Winter can be unforgiving一even to your daily driver. Frost can quickly build up and make it hard for you to see through the windshield.

Maintaining a clean windshield is key to a safe driving experience. So before the big freeze, you might want to try rubbing half an onion on the windshield to prevent frost from forming.

, Winter Is Coming: Simple Car Hacks to Survive the Cold Streets

Pro Tips are nuggets of information direct from ASE-certified automobile technicians working with CarParts.com, which may include unique, personal insights based on their years of experience working in the automotive industry. These can help you make more informed decisions about your car.

Pro Tip: Make sure to fill your windshield washer reservoir with a good brand of winter washer fluid that will de-ice your windshield. But first you need to totally empty the washer reservoir of the summer fluid or water that will dilute the winter washer fluid.

Windshield Wipers

Crusty windshield wipers can be a hassle to deal with. To avoid this issue, keep the blades warm with a pair of socks if you’re not planning on driving anytime soon.

Extremely cold temperatures can also cause the wiper blades to get stuck on the windshield. Fortunately, a piece of cloth soaked in rubbing alcohol can get them back to normal in minutes. Of course, if you have already put socks on the wipers, this won’t be a problem.

See also  Follow this Guide to Remove Scratches from Your Windshield

Door Locks

Imagine being late for work only to find out that you can’t get in your car because the door locks are frozen. Annoying, right?

The good news is that the problem is nothing a few household items can’t fix.

The first method you can try is heating the key with a match or lighter. The heat from the key might be enough to melt the ice from the lock. You can also use a straw to blow on the lock until the ice melts.

If these hacks don’t work, try dousing your key in hand sanitizer. The alcohol from the sanitizer should be able to melt the ice from the lock.

Side Mirrors

Side mirrors help you see adjacent lanes without turning your head to the rear of the vehicle, so ensure they’re ice-free before pulling out of the driveway.

Plastic bags secured with clothespins or rubber bands can prevent frost from forming on your side mirrors. This hack can also save you a couple of valuable minutes because you won’t have to scrape ice off the mirrors.

Tires

One of the main problems drivers encounter during winter is the loss of traction on their tires because of the icy roads. In some cases, the tires aren’t really built for the cold season, further increasing the risk.

checking tire thread using a penny
For years, conventional wisdom was to insert a penny in one of the grooves of the tire (see photo). But, according to new tests published by one major tire retailer, this “penny check” is outdated and is no longer reliable, particularly for winter driving because it compromises safety. Actually, quarters are safer than pennies when it comes to checking your tires, only you’re looking at Washington’s head instead of Lincoln’s. | Image Source: Richard McCuistian

The penny check indicates a tread depth of 2/32-inch (1.6mm) or less, and this is simply not safe. In driving tests performed by the tire retailer, a late-model pickup truck with tires that passed the penny test (which is legal in most states) averaged about 500 feet to stop from 70 miles per hour on wet pavement. On icy pavement, that distance would be even greater. That’s almost a tenth of a mile, even with anti-lock brakes.

There might also be some instances where winter-ready tires can have trouble gaining traction. To resolve this, you can sprinkle some kitty litter on the stuck tires. But most modern vehicles have a traction control function as part of their ABS systems that will detect when one wheel is spinning and the opposite one isn’t and will apply the brakes only on the spinning wheel to force torque through the differential gears to the opposite wheel.

See also  How to Replace a Side Mirror

Doors

Similar to locks, doors can also get stuck because of the cold. Try coating the rubber edges with cooking spray to prevent this problem.

Roof

Snow on the roof might seem like a minor issue, but there have been growing concerns about it being a safety hazard when driving. Keep your roof snow-free using a broom or push broom.

Trunk

There’s a tendency for light vehicles to lose traction on icy roads. If you’re driving alone and your trunk is empty, you might want to consider adding some extra weight to help the rear tires gain more traction.

A heavy bag of kitty litter can help the rear tires gain more traction. Several pounds of road salt can also do the trick.

Lights

Lights are most important when navigating through low-visibility roads. During a blizzard or snowstorm, a pair of foggy lights can put you in danger, so you might want to address this issue before going for a drive.

, Winter Is Coming: Simple Car Hacks to Survive the Cold Streets

Pro Tips are nuggets of information direct from ASE-certified automobile technicians working with CarParts.com, which may include unique, personal insights based on their years of experience working in the automotive industry. These can help you make more informed decisions about your car.

Pro Tip: However, even if your lights are foggy, they’ll still allow the other drivers to see you on the road. Good, non-fogged lights are important no matter what the weather is when it comes to your being able to see where you’re driving.

Toothpaste and baking soda are common household items DIYers use to clean foggy lights, but you can also mount half a lemon on a drill (you’ll find YouTube videos on this) and spin the wet side of that half-lemon against the foggy surface of the lights. These products are abrasive enough to clean the lights without scratching them. There are also kits you can buy at parts stores to de-fog lights, but even the best kits only keep fogged lights clear for a few months. 

Winter Driving Tips

Heading to snow-filled states can be an exciting journey, but keep in mind that winter can sometimes create unfavorable driving conditions. Here are some winter driving tips to remember before taking your car out of the garage.

Keep the Windshield and Windows Clear at All Times

Always keep the windows and windshield fog-free. They’re essentially your eyes when you’re on the road, and any form of obstruction can lead to an accident.

See also  Better Together: A Guide to Buying Parts in Pairs

Slow Down

Snow and ice can lead to reduced traction and stopping distances. Leave more space between you and the vehicle in front to avoid collisions.

, Winter Is Coming: Simple Car Hacks to Survive the Cold Streets

Pro Tips are nuggets of information direct from ASE-certified automobile technicians working with CarParts.com, which may include unique, personal insights based on their years of experience working in the automotive industry. These can help you make more informed decisions about your car.

Pro Tip: Be especially careful on bridges, which can be very icy even when the road isn’t, due to wind passing underneath the bridge.

Don’t Leave Your Vehicle Unattended In Case of a Breakdown

If your vehicle stalls in the middle of the road, first, do whatever you can to coast it to the side of the road and out of the way of road traffic if possible, and, to be certain, turn on your flashers. 

A vehicle in the middle of the road is extremely prone to being rear-ended by oncoming traffic, particularly when visibility is bad, such as in a snowstorm or in fog.  

You should stay inside and keep yourself warm unless your vehicle is in the middle of the road. Sitting in a car that is rear-ended or front-ended by another vehicle at highway speed can be devastating. Vehicles are more likely to be detected by passersby compared to people walking in the middle of a blizzard. 

Wrapping Up

As a car owner, it’s your job to prepare your vehicle for tough weather conditions like winter. The cold season can create some problems for your vehicle, but only if you fail to meet its needs.

In most cases, you don’t need fancy equipment to keep your car winter-ready. It only takes a few household items to help your vehicle survive the cold streets.

Keeping the windshield and mirrors fog-free, checking tires for enough traction, and using simple products as deicers are some of the things you should take note of before driving in the cold.

About The Authors
Written By Automotive and Tech Writers

The CarParts.com Research Team is composed of experienced automotive and tech writers working with (ASE)-certified automobile technicians and automotive journalists to bring up-to-date, helpful information to car owners in the US. Guided by CarParts.com's thorough editorial process, our team strives to produce guides and resources DIYers and casual car owners can trust.

Reviewed By Technical Reviewer at CarParts.com

Richard McCuistian has worked for nearly 50 years in the automotive field as a professional technician, an instructor, and a freelance automotive writer for Motor Age, ACtion magazine, Power Stroke Registry, and others. Richard is ASE certified for more than 30 years in 10 categories, including L1 Advanced Engine Performance and Light Vehicle Diesel.

Any information provided on this Website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace consultation with a professional mechanic. The accuracy and timeliness of the information may change from the time of publication.

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