Prepare Your Car for a Colorado Winter

A little preparation goes a long way to keep your car reliable and you safe in winter.  And winterizing your vehicle becomes critical if you plan to play in the mountains!  The only thing worse than being stranded on the side of the road….. is being stranded in the middle of winter!  The cold can turn an inconvenient situation into a life-threatening one surprisingly fast. Here are some very simple things you can do to help insure a safe and enjoyable winter driving season: NOTE:  – services listed below with one asterisk (*) are included in every John’s Auto Care oil change service. Have your oil changed regularly with us and each starred item is one less thing you have to think about.   – services listed below with two asterisks (**) are included in John’s Winter Special


As any mechanic will tell you, checking and renewing your fluids is the least expensive and easiest preventive maintenance you can do. Change your oil and oil filter* – Clean, high quality engine oil goes a long way in protecting the motor in cold start situations.  Change your oil frequently (every  3,000 miles forColorado driving).

AntifreezeHave your John’s Auto Care car mechanic check the condition of your antifreeze.*  We’ll use a tester to check the mixture for its freezing point.**  A thorough cooling system check will include a leak test, if a leak is suspected.**  This is where your mechanic will put the system under pressure to visually check for leaks.

Consider a Coolant Flush – Replacing your engine’s coolant is cheap insurance against extreme temperatures. Over time, antifreeze can actually generate a weak electrical current, which can then cause oxidation and eventually failure inside of your coolant system. Keeping everything fresh inside will put less stress on your vehicle’s hardware and save you serious money in the long run.

Check Your Wiper Fluid* – If you’ve ever driven after salt trucks have come through to melt snow and ice, you know the importance of windshield washer fluid.  Check that your windshield fluid is made to withstand freezing conditions and is full.* Don’t forget to check the spray nozzles of your windshield-washer system.* Sometimes, they get blocked by wax or debris. Use a needle or pin to clear blocked nozzles.

Other Fluids – Power steering, brake, and battery fluids should also be checked and filled to recommended levels.*

 Anything Made of Rubber

Tires – Worn, bald or badly aligned or balanced tires can mean accidents on ice, rain or snow. Have your tires checked for proper inflation* and alignment**, and rotate them every 6,000 miles**. If you live in the foothills or the mountains, you may want to consider Snow Tires for added traction, or keep chains in your trunk.

Check Tire Tread Condition* – Quality tire tread sheds the snow, ice and road grime more quickly, providing better traction for improved safety. If the treads are worn, replace them. Better yet, exchange them for a set of snow tires which have treads that provide better traction and are equipped to handle extreme winter driving conditions (see our article on Snow Tires).

Inspect Belts and Hoses*  – Rubber parts under your hood need maintenance, too. Cracked, frayed or worn out rubber won’t stand up to temperature extremes.  Radiator, heater and vacuum hoses, and all belts should be inspected.*  If any show signs of cracking, rotting or softness replace BEFORE they break on the road.

 Visibility is Key to Your Safety

Visually inspect all lights* – You can have a friend help you check your marker bulbs, tail lights, brake lights, turn signals and especially your headlights and hazard lights.  If your headlights seem dull, ask us about our headlight restoration service.  You’ll be amazed how much of a difference it can make.

Check Wiper Blades* – Make sure that your wiper blades are in top condition, to fully clear your windshield, and back window if the vehicle is equipped. Road salt and slush can jeopardize visibility. Check wipers for streaking.  Purchase winter blades to cut through snow and ice.

 Check Your Battery

Winter mornings can wreak havoc on an older battery, the cold making it work much harder.  The average life of a battery is 3 1/2 years. If your battery is older than that, it’s probably time to replace.  Have your John’s Auto Care auto mechanic check your battery and cables* to ensure your car starts quickly and reliably.

 Boots ‘n Brakes

Brakes Have your brakes checked* and don’t postpone needed brake work. Are your rotors warped or cracked? Do they have deep grooves or are the pads worn close to their minimum clearance? Your vehicle will be experiencing harsher conditions soon, and it’s dangerous to drive with poorly performing brakes, especially in snowy weather.  Replacing brake pads early will cost you significantly less than waiting until the rotors need to be replaced!

Boots – Front-wheel drive vehicles equipped with CV (constant velocity) joints should have the boots checked for rips and cracks.* Boots protect CV joints, but when the joints are exposed to salt, ice and snow, they can damage the joint. Replacing a joint can costs hundreds of dollars, but replacing a boot costs a small fraction of that.

 Air in Your Spare

Make sure your spare is filled with air* and you should know how to safely use your jack and lug wrench.

 Gas Up

Keep your gas tank at least half full throughout the winter. This will reduce condensation, making your vehicle easier to start on cold mornings.

Replace the Cabin Air Filter

(If your vehicle is equipped).  Outside contaminants from Fall and Summer driving are stranded in the cabin air filter and running the heater on “high” in the extreme cold only sends the micro-particles deeper into the vehicle.

 Protect your vehicle’s paint

Rain, snow and salt are extremely tough on paint. A tough coating of quality car wax will add another barrier between road grime and your vehicle’s paint.

 Protect the Interior

You also can’t discount the impact weather can have on the interior of your vehicle. If you’re going to spend a lot of time ducking in and out of the elements, you might want to grab some all-weather floor mats. They’re easy to clean and do a great job of keeping the muck in one place.

 Prepare a Roadside Emergency Kit

Even with the best preparation, and especially if you like to play in the mountains, you could get stuck in a storm or on the side of the road. When sub-zero temperatures or bad weather are involved a dangerous situation can turn deadly very rapidly.  Put together an emergency kit to carry in your car this winter.  Carrying these supplies may save your life: – a blanket – jumper cables – a flashlight – chains – a first-aid kit – a small knife – flares – a couple energy bars – a gallon of water – gloves – small shovel – waterproof matches or a lighter – ice scraper – a bag of sand or kitty litter to help provide traction if your car is stuck in the snow

 Click here to check out John’s Winter Special!

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John's Auto Care is an auto repair shop in Boulder, CO. Our mechanics treat every repair like it's our own car.

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