Easy do it yourself winter vehicle maintenance

Article By: Scott Marshall
Scott Marshall is Director of Training for Young Drivers of Canada.  He was a judge on the first 3 seasons of Canada’s Worst Driver on Discovery Network. Scott started writing columns on driving for his community paper since 2005.  Since then his columns have been printed in several publications including newspaper, magazines and various web-sites. You can visit his own blog at http://safedriving.wordpress.com.


Vehicle maintenance can be a difficult task for many people to do over the year, but in colder weather, it can be even more difficult. Regardless of the cold weather, it’s something that needs to be done. Even if you aren’t mechanically inclined, there are many things you can do to help your vehicle stay on the road.

Perhaps the first thing you can do is check the fluid levels in your vehicle. Checking your engine oil, washer fluid and coolant is always a good thing. After all, no one wants to be stranded on a cold wintery day with a broken down vehicle. Your owner’s manual will give you the information you need to ensure you have adequate amounts.

With the colder temperatures your tires will lose air pressure. Check your tire pressure once a week or two to ensure your tires are properly inflated. This would also include the spare tire. The sticker on the inside of your door-jam will indicate what the pressure should be for each of your tires.

Windshield wipers take a beating in winter. Between wear and tear from clearing the windshield of snow and ice to being hacked with the ice scrapper, they won’t always last through winter. Take the time to ensure the ice is off your wipers before you drive. Also use a cleaning solution on the wiper blade to ensure it’s clean enough to clean off your windshield. Don’t forget about the rear window wiper if you have one. And by the way, wipers should be replaced annually.

The old-fashioned car wash does a good thing during winter months. Keeping your vehicle clean allows you to be seen by other road users since your headlights and tail lights are visible. Stop off at the gas station periodically between car washes to use the squeegee to clean the lights off. The driver behind can’t see your brake lights if they are covered in salt and slush. While you’re there, use that same squeegee on each of the side windows and mirrors. Maximize your visibility.

The cold weather can take its toll on your vehicle’s battery and usually means it will be working a bit harder since it has to use the lights, wipers, heater, defroster and fan. Have the battery tested to ensure it will start every time. All of these take power from the battery and sometimes, the cold weather makes it difficult to start your vehicle. Turn off all of the accessories before starting your vehicle on cold winter days. If it’s very cold, you may want to use a block heater on a timer to warm up the engine before you head out.

Basic winter maintenance can be done by any driver. All you have to do is set your mind to it. Think about your safety as you do it. Your vehicle becomes more reliable and a reliable vehicle is a safer vehicle. Besides, if it’s not done by you, who will do it?