Don't let cold weather kill your car!

10 Ways to Keep Your Car Running This Winter

by Shaunna Privratsky


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Brrr! With much of the nation in the grip of a deep freeze, it is more important than ever to have safe, reliable transportation. If you travel in the country, a stalled vehicle can be a life or death situation. Keep your car running with these ten ways to help it survive the cold.

  1. Beef-up your battery. The best defense against the cold is a good battery. You can have your battery tested at a mechanic's shop or use an inexpensive tester at home. If your battery comes up "weak," put a charger on it. Batteries generally last three to five years.

  2. Tight is right. Make sure the cables are tightly connected to the battery. A loose connection means the battery is not charging correctly.

  3. Keep it clean. Corrosion can clog up the posts and cables of your battery, making it weaker. A paste of baking soda and water and an old toothbrush will clean it right up. A shop will charge you anywhere from $15 to $30 for this, so do it yourself for some big savings. Dry everything thoroughly when done.

  4. Warm ups welcome. Adding an engine block heater can be the difference between a running car and freezing by the side of the road. At Autozone, the heaters are only $14 to $35, depending on the size of your car's engine. It's a small price to pay! Install it yourself or have your mechanic do it for peace of mind.


  5. Check belts and hoses. The extreme cold makes them brittle, so have everything checked when you get an oil change. It's much less expensive to replace them before they cause an engine failure.

  6. Fill 'er up! A full tank of gas is easier on your engine in the cold. It keeps the fuel from freezing and prevents the vapor from crystallizing. A good rule of thumb is to keep your tank at least half full at all times.
  7. Related: Winter Fuel Economy

  8. Test your antifreeze. Make sure the correct ratio of antifreeze to water, usually 50/50, is added to the engine. This can also be done during an oil change, or check with your owner's manual.

  9. More Heet? Adding a fuel additive like Heet® to your gas keeps the fuel lines from freezing up, but it won't work if they are already frozen. This is especially important if your vehicle is parked outside for extended periods of time in extreme cold.
  10. Not an auto club member? Compare roadside assistance plans.

  11. Turn it off. Before trying to start a cold car, turn off the radio, heater, and any lights. They sap energy from the battery when it's already weakened from the cold.

  12. Don't get froze out! Spray door locks and door jambs with WD-40® to prevent the locks from freezing. Wipe up any excess to avoid damaging the paint. Graphite or a de-icing spray also works. Just don't store it inside the car.

Besides keeping your home and your family warm, your car needs attention, too. Winter may be around for a while longer, but you can stay on the road and safe with these ten tips to help your car survive the cold.


Shaunna Privratsky became an expert in personal finance out of necessity. Between writing, reading and gardening, she is always on the lookout for bargains. Please sign up for the free newsletters at The Discount Diva. You can also visit Shaunna on Google+.

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  • Not an auto club member? Compare roadside assistance plans.
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  • Find more safe winter driving tips by visiting the Dollar Stretcher Library.
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