How to Prep Your Car for Winter

Don’t be left out in the cold. Get your vehicle winter-ready with these tips.

An SUV charges through the snow in a storm
An SUV charges through the snow in a storm. Getty Images

You’ve got the sweetest new board, the hottest new outerwear, your season pass purchased and several trips planned to different resorts. You’ve even been putting in extra time at the gym and your flexibility to the test in yoga classes so you’ll be in tip top shape. You think you’re ready for winter, but are you? Think again. Your vehicle needs some lovin’ too, especially if it’s going to be carrying you, your friends and all of your crap around to and fro, in the ever-changing and unexpected conditions that is winter.

Here’s some advice to getting your car prepped for the best months of the year.

AWD and 4WD

Having all-wheel drive or four-wheel drive will save you ass in winter weather. Two-wheel drive cars are virtually impossible to drive in any type of icy or snowy conditions. If all four tires aren’t grippable, you will probably slide out, get stuck, or simply not be able to drive your car at all. Signs are posted everywhere in and around resort areas stating “4-wheel drive, snow tires and chains required.”

A lot of areas have chain control checks and if the person notices you don’t have AWD or 4WD, they’ll make you pull over and buy chains (which will cost you a fortune!) or have you turn around. There’s no worse way to start off a trip than not being able to get there at all.

Most cars will have an emblem with an AWD or 4WD logo on them, but if you don’t know for sure, check with your local dealership.

Some vehicles have to be turned into 4WD position by a knob or lever. Make sure you know where to find it and how to change it into this setting before you get on the road.

Tires, tires, tires

Besides having the proper type of vehicle, you’re also going to need specific snow or all-season tires. Highly grippable, snow or studded tires can help you get out of a number of white knuckle situations.

Ask a tire shop about your tires and what they recommend for winter conditions. A lot of people who live in winter environments have two sets of tires— one for summer, one for winter. Check the tread if you already have winter tires and make sure they’re still in good shape.


Generally, with AW or 4WD and winter tires, you’ll make it through mostly anything, but as backup you really should consider investing in a set of chains...and learning how to put them on. Just in case your AWD or 4WD decide to crap out, and your tires aren’t feeling like they’re doing the trick, having chains handy will make your life that much easier. You’ll likely need to put the chains on the front tires, but check your manual to know beforehand. Prepare by installing them a few times if you do have to use them. Having a set of waterproof work gloves accessible is also a great idea to use for install.

Other suggestions

Always follow the weather as closely as possible and stay up to date on road conditions before setting on your journey. You can take the risk of making it over a pass or hazardous road that’s known to close, but making sure your tank is full of gas will set your mind at ease. There’s always a possibility of being stopped on the road for hours in unforeseen conditions.

Check that your windshield wipers are in good condition. Check your front and rear lights, especially your brake lights.

Carry a shovel, in case you have to shovel snow away from your car, an ice scraper, window brush, flares, a blanket, bottles of water and snacks, just in case you get into an unideal situation.

Don’t forget to drive slow and as cautious as possible, when driving in winter conditions. There’s no rush. Get to your destination safely and happily, by following these simple tips. 

mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Schultz, Tawnya. "How to Prep Your Car for Winter." ThoughtCo, Aug. 22, 2016, Schultz, Tawnya. (2016, August 22). How to Prep Your Car for Winter. Retrieved from Schultz, Tawnya. "How to Prep Your Car for Winter." ThoughtCo. (accessed November 17, 2017).