6 Winter Car Maintenance Tips

Winter driving in Wisconsin can bring a lot of unknown and dangerous conditions, icy roads, freezing temperatures and heavy snow just to mention a few. These winter car care tips can make sure you’re not only taking care of your vehicle but staying safe on the road.  

1. Maintain tire pressure 

In the winter, it’s common for car tires to lose air pressure. The drop in outside temperature correlates with the drop in your tire pressure. If your vehicle has a tire pressure monitoring system you will see a warning light indicating when you have low tire pressure. Don’t ignore it and check your tire pressure immediately.  

Driving on tires with low pressure is dangerous for many reasons. It is bad for gas mileage, it can chemically breakdown the tire causing a blowout or an accident and it won’t “bite” through snow down to the pavement as well. It’s like hydroplaning on water and just as dangerous. Don’t risk it!  

2. Upgrade your headlights 

Thanks to daylight savings, the sun sets earlier making for a major winter hazard, driving in the dark. Especially during the evening commute at peak traffic times. Its important that your vehicle’s lights are in excellent shape, providing the brightest possible illumination. If a headlight bulb is out, fix it immediately. In a snowfall, brush off all snow from the vehicle and never drive if there is snow covering any exterior light.  

Bright headlights are also a safety precaution to help you watch for animals on the move at dusk. Especially deer in Wisconsin! 

the headlights of a car in the night

3. Replace your windshield wipers 

Tests have shown wiper blades start to lose their effectiveness in as little as six months. With snow, slush, and salt residue being kicked up off the road, it’s likely that you’ll be using your windshield wipers a lot over the winter.  

Along with that, check your windshield washer fluid frequently to make sure it’s full. Due to the residue kickback, you’re likely to wash your windshield more often in the winter.  Also, make sure to add de-icer fluid so it doesn’t freeze.

4. Check your tire tread 

In Wisconsin, we know winter driving can be weary. Having tires with adequate tread can make a big difference how your car handles on the road. Consider replacing your tires before winter or you can swap out your all-season tires for winter tires. Winter tires have tread specially designed to grip snow and ice for optimum traction on slick roads. Whatever tires you choose, be certain there’s enough tread on them as you head into winter. Getting through snow requires the deepest grooves possible.  

Tip: Use the penny test to check tread depth. Insert a penny into your tire’s tread groove with Lincoln’s head upside down and facing you. If you can see all of Lincoln’s head, it’s time to replace your tires.

check tire tread with penny

5. Keep your gas tank full  

Standing outside in the Wisconsin cold to fill up your gas tank isn’t fun, but it’s important! A full gas tank may prevent accumulated water from freezing inside your fuel pump. It also can help you stay warm should you get stuck or breakdown by allowing your car to stay running until help arrives. Make sure to keep your gas tank at least half full.  

6. Stock a roadside emergency kit

If you break down or get in an accident in the cold weather, be prepared with a roadside emergency kit. Keep winter clothing, accessories and a blanket in the car in case you have to wait for assistance. Some other items include emergency lights or flares and a shovel or device to clear away snow.

When it comes to winter roads, trust the Wisconsin safety experts. Even if things go wrong on the road, we’ll help you get back on your feet. While you are getting your car ready for the crazy Wisconsin winter, take a look at our winter home tips too. 

Review your car insurance policy with your local Rural Mutual Insurance agent to make sure you’re properly protected this winter.