15 Ways To Avoid Car Issues and Stay Safe in Bad Weather

Get ready for whatever Mother Nature throws your way with these car prep tips.

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Updated July 11, 2024
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Whether it’s ice and snow in the winter or rain-slicked roads the rest of the year, it’s essential to ensure your car can handle the elements.

Prepping your vehicle now for bad weather might help you avoid a breakdown or an accident that could affect your ability to get ahead financially.

Focus on these 15 ways to prepare your car for bad weather.

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Check your tires

powerbeephoto/Adobe using pressure gauge tool to check air pressure in tyre

Your tires are all that stand between you and the slick or icy road, so make sure they're in good shape.

Whether it's ice, snow, rain, or a combination, the tire tread should be good enough to ensure you don't slip and slide all over the road.

The general rule is to put a penny into the tread: If you can see the top of Abe Lincoln's head, the tires should be replaced.

For really bad winter weather, upgrade to snow tires. Their deeper treads grip the road surface better.

Replace your windshield wipers

malkovkosta/Adobe male technician windscreen wipers on car

Your wipers keep snow and rain out of your line of vision. If your blades are squealing or there’s a portion peeling off, it’s time to replace them. Try to replace the blades at least annually.

Also, make sure your wiper fluid remains full so you don’t end up in a situation where you can’t see and have no fluid to clean the windshield.

Keep an ice scraper in the car

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Even if your area doesn’t get a lot of snow, an ice scraper is a must in cold weather. A scraper is the best and fastest way to quickly remove ice from your windows.

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Switch up your oil when the seasons change

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Talk to your oil change technician about making sure you have the correct type of oil for the season.

For example, 5W-30 oil performs better in the winter, while thicker 10W-30 oil tends to do a better job in the summer.

Schedule full maintenance on your vehicle

M Stocker/Adobe mechanic shaking hands with woman

Schedule a maintenance check if your car needs one. Check the manufacturer’s recommendations about how often this is necessary.

Even if you just get the vehicle in for routine maintenance, you can pinpoint concerns regarding brakes, leaking hoses, or other issues.

Get your heat and AC checked

DragonImages/Adobe car mechanic talking to owner

If your car isn’t blowing cool air in the summer or hot air in the winter, it’s time to bring it to the shop for a look.

In the winter, you need the heat to keep your windows clear of fog, snow, and ice. And a lack of air conditioning can be miserable in the summer.

Check your headlights and brake lights

Евгений Вершинин/Adobe headlights of automobile in garage

It’s a good idea to regularly check your lights to ensure they function properly.

Experts say you should expect to replace headlight bulbs every 2,000 to 3,000 hours, for example.

Pack a roadside emergency kit

chartphoto/Adobe man charging battery car with electricity trough jumper cables

A roadside emergency kit should include jumper cables and a flashlight. Consider adding road flares to it, too.

Then, make sure the kit has a few bottles of water, a first-aid kit, and some nonperishable snacks. Tuck it into your trunk or backseat to use in an emergency.

Check your car’s battery

Deymos.HR/Adobe Mechanic looking at car

Cold weather isn’t a good thing for car batteries. And hot weather can be even worse.

If your battery hasn’t been inspected in the last three to five years, have your auto technician take a closer look now.

Typically, batteries last longer in cold-weather areas than in places where it gets really hot. But don’t simply assume your battery is in good condition. Instead, let your technician inspect it.

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Check your coolant

navintar/Adobe engine coolant tank of a serviced car

During colder months, having antifreeze in your car keeps the cooling system from freezing up. That could help prevent the engine block from cracking

In the summer, antifreeze keeps things cooled down.

Keep a tire gauge in the glovebox

New Africa/Adobe mechanic checking tire air pressure at car service

Keep a tire pressure gauge in the glovebox so you can easily access it to check the pressure of your tires.

Top off the tires with air to keep them performing at their best. You should find the recommended tire pressure for the vehicle on a sticker on the driver’s door.

Keep the gas tank filled

Maridav/Adobe Pumping gas into a car

Empty space in your gas tank causes condensation, which is bad for your gas tank for many reasons.

Also, when it's very cold, a lack of fuel can cause the fuel lines to freeze up, leading to a costly repair — and a car that won't start.

Apply protective wax to the exterior

edojob/Adobe polishing with using a mechanical sander

Applying wax to the car’s exterior helps to protect the paint and to keep the vehicle shiny even when it rains. Also, wash your car routinely to remove dirt.

Stick a small bag of cat litter in the trunk

Anciens/Adobe clumping tofu flushable cat litter

If you live in a snowy climate, keep some cat litter in your car.

Using cat litter can be an excellent way to get traction under your tires if you're stuck in mud or snow during bad weather.

Check the seals on all windows and doors

Friends Stock/Adone young business man test drive new car

Make sure seals are tight along the doors, windows, and sunroof. This is especially important for older cars.

You don’t want rainwater to seep in and cause damage to the interior of your car or your vehicle’s electrical system. A visual inspection is usually all it takes to find holes or brittle areas that warrant replacement.

Bottom line

Minerva Studio/Adobe smiling man taking taking look to car in showroom

It doesn’t take long to have a mechanic inspect your car to protect it from bad weather. If you invest in a few tips now, it could save you time and money later.

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Author Details

Sandy Baker

Sandy Baker is a has over 17 years of experience in the financial sector. Her experience includes website content, blogs, and social media. She’s worked with companies such as Realtor.com, Bankrate, TransUnion, Equifax, and Consumer Affairs.