15 Car Products Mechanics Say You Need for Winter
Winter is here, but it's not too late to prep your vehicle. Here's what the experts recommend to keep your car running in tip-top shape.
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Why your car needs some wintertime TLC
Cold, snow, and ice can take a toll on your vehicle, but you don’t just have to grin and bear it. If you prepare your car properly for the coldest months of the year, you can avoid some common problems you’re likely to experience otherwise. “Mechanically speaking, every part of your vehicle has to work harder in extreme cold, so it’s important to stay stocked with jumper cables, a gas can, an air compressor for your tires, and more,” says Jake McKenzie, content manager at Auto Accessories Garage. Here are the products mechanics say you need for the winter, so you can help avoid dead batteries, spinouts, and more. To stay safe, also make sure to avoid these 13 winter driving mistakes that could put you in danger.
Crucial for your car in the winter, an antifreeze and coolant combo protects your vehicle from wear and extreme temperatures. It circulates through the engine to maintain the correct working temperature of different components, preventing the water in the radiator and engine from freezing and the engine from overheating. “Radiator antifreeze/coolant must be rated to provide freeze protection to the lowest local temperature. For the northern U.S., look for protection down to -20 F,” advises Richard Reina, product training director at CARiD.com. “If lacking, the engine block can crack.” While you’ll probably have to get that repaired by a professional, these are 10 car problems you can easily fix yourself.
According to Goodyear, for every 10 degrees of temperature drop, tires will drop one to two pounds of pressure. “Your vehicle will never operate as efficiently as it does with full tires,” says McKenzie. “A portable air compressor that you can take on-the-go will allow you to quickly and easily inflate your tires wherever you are. Full tires will help you drive more safely and maximize your fuel efficiency.” One good option: The EPAuto 12-volt DC portable air compressor pump, which both AutoGuide and Amazon rate their number one choice. Here’s how to check tire pressure with a digital tire gauge.
Having the right wiper blade in the winter can be the difference between whether you can literally see out your windshield or not. “Winter wiper blades are the exact same thing as your traditional wiper blade, but with an additional protective coating that’s designed to keep out the elements,” says Jake Lane, mechanic and director of growth at Nubrakes Mobile Brake Repair, adding that you want wipers that are also beam. “Beam wipers were developed to essentially create a ‘custom’ fit on your windshield, as the blade conforms to the specific curvature of your windshield. The Icon wiper blades are beam and all-season, but they work particularly well in winter conditions.” Here’s how to change wiper blades in three easy steps.
Check out these 16 car safety features no vehicle should be without.
Tracking salt, snow, ice, and mud into your car is the fastest way to ruin your floor carpets and decrease the value of your car. That’s where these all-weather floor mats from WeatherTech come in. You can buy a universal set on Amazon, or you can have them custom-made to fit your specific vehicle to trap water, salt, mud, and sand. “WeatherTech mats [can be] laser cut to your vehicle’s specifications, which means you’re protecting your vehicle’s interior from stains and damage,” says Lane. “Plus, cleaning WeatherTech mats is super simple. I just take them out once or twice a month and scrub them down with WeatherTech’s cleaner and protector.” By the way, this is how often you should really clean the inside of your car. (Hint: It’s more than you think!)
Prestone’s De-Icer Washer Fluid helps clear light ice and frost and prevent dangerous re-freeze from forming on your windshield as you drive. “Top it up, buy extra, and keep it in your car,” says Bryan Rodgers, owner of Rodgers Performance, a top-dealer alternative Audi repair and service specialist. “Throughout the winter, you’ll never know when you’ll need it, so it’s always best to be ready.” This trick will defrost your car windshield in seconds.
“Battery power drops with temperature, and a weak battery will fail at the least opportune time on the coldest morning,” says Daniel Rey, a professional mechanic for more than 30 years. According to Popular Mechanics, when your car doesn’t start, the problem is most likely a dead battery, and the fastest way to get back on the road is a quick jump-start. It takes less than five minutes and only requires a set of jumper cables and another vehicle. These booster cables are AAA-certified and connect to fit top or side post terminals. Here are the other items you should always keep in your car.
This is a great preemptive measure to avoid that morning frost, light ice, and snow from sticking to windshields and wiper blades. It’s easy to apply and will dramatically reduce the time and hassle of having to scrape your windows in freezing temperatures. “In some conditions, this product will work well, but it must be sprayed on windows every evening, and drivers should still brush snow off first,” says Reina. Remember these tips to survive a car breakdown in winter.
“As soon as cold weather hits, keep an ice scraper in your trunk,” says Reina. “If snow or sleet falls while you’re at work, you don’t want to get caught cleaning off your car with your hands!” You need something that will clear the ice and snow efficiently and without scratching your car’s glass and paint. WireCutter rates the Hopkins SubZero as the top tool for the job. The scraping blade and ice-crushing teeth can take on thick or thin ice, and the bristle broom sweeps snow away from even the tightest spots. Plus, at 60 inches, it extends enough so you’re not reaching over your snowy windshield. Another way to stay safe this winter and all year long? Don’t ignore your car’s check engine light.
“Another lifesaving winter car accessory is a battery blanket, which boosts starting power in cold weather and can help extend the life of the battery,” says Reina. “This is a must-have if you park outside frequently or live somewhere prone to long stretches of sub-zero temperatures.” The thermal insulation helps maintain battery temperature in warm or cold weather. This option from Zerostart is made with thiosulfate thermal insulation and comes in a variety of sizes to match your specific vehicle. Sometimes, despite your best efforts, things go wrong. Here’s what to do if your car breaks down in winter and 10 best practices for winter driving.
Getting stuck in the snow isn’t just a nuisance; it can also be incredibly dangerous. “If your local area sees heavy snowfall all winter, chains or similar can not only almost guarantee traction—they may be required by local law,” says Reina. Like chains, the Trac-Grabber helps stuck drivers safely get moving again. The device is easily secured to the wheel by a strap and sits on the wheel perpendicular to the tire. When the wheels spin to the point where the Trac-Grabber engages, it lifts and moves the vehicle to stable terrain. For more tire advice, check out 12 tires car experts buy for their own cars.
Salt is used on roads, sidewalks, and driveways during the winter, so it’s pretty much impossible to avoid getting it inside your vehicle. Unfortunately, you can’t get it off mats and carpets with a light dusting or quick shake. That’s where Sprayway Salt Off, which is recommended by AutoGeek, comes in. Not only does the formula remove stains, but its built-in brush cap loosens salt particles and gets to hard-to-reach spots with ease. Here’s why driving in light snow can be more dangerous than heavy snow.
This fast-drying rubberized aerosol spray is ideal for resurfacing wheel wells and lower rocker panels. Why is it so important in the winter? Your car’s underbody takes the brunt of the damage winter driving can cause, so you need to protect it. Worth’s UnderBody Underseal provides a permanent, flexible black finish that protects against rust, rocks, ice, rock salt, and other road debris. Don’t miss these 74 car maintenance tips that will extend the life of your car. Plus, here’s how to get rid of salt stains in your car.
Road salt used to de-ice the roads can also de-paint your car if you’re not careful. That’s why you need a sealant like this Proje’ Ceramic Coating. But before you buy any product for this purpose, know this: A lot of people confuse sealant and wax, but they’re completely different products with their own pros and cons. “Much like a ceramic coating, paint sealants are stronger, last longer, and protect the paint from harmful contaminants like road salt, acid rain, and bug splatters,” says Lane. “The one downside to paint sealants is the fact that they tend to highlight imperfections like paint swirls, so if you don’t want to see these, you’ll want to head to a detailer for a paint correction prior to applying the sealant.” On the flip side, these are 15 things you’re doing to your car that mechanics wouldn’t.
“While winter weather isn’t the best thing for your vehicle, it’s salts and chemicals used to de-ice roadways that do the real damage—especially on any metal that’s near the lower section of your vehicle,” says Lane. “If you want to protect your wheels from oxidation, pitting, and corrosion, think about applying a wheel coating.” Pinnacle Black Label Diamond Wheel Coating coats your wheels in a hard barrier that makes your tires impenetrable by road salt. Even better: Just one application will last the entire season. Check out some of our favorite wheel and tire cleaners.
Cold snaps are usually accompanied by a sharp surge in roadside assistance calls, most of them reporting a dead battery and requesting a jump start, says McKenzie. “A portable jump starter will hold a charge of its own and allow you to jump-start your own vehicle even when no one else is around,” he explains. The NOCO Genius UltraSafe Lithium Jump Starter is safe, easy to use, and features a built-in LED flashlight. Next, read up on these 30 things your mechanic won’t tell you and how to avoid getting ripped off by a car mechanic.