Prepare your car and home for winter
Prevent wintertime woes by following these 10-point checklists. Post them in the garage so you can refer to them year after year.
For your car:
- Check your antifreeze. A 50:50 mixture of antifreeze and water is best.
- Get your battery tested if it’s more than three years old. Clean corrosion from posts and cables.
- Lubricate your door and trunk locks to keep them from freezing.
- Change your oil. Dirty oil is thick, and cold temperatures make oil even thicker, further reducing its ability to circulate.
- Replace wiper blades. They’re only good for one year.
- Put an ice scraper in the glove box.
- Consider switching to snow tires. If you use studded tires on a front-wheel, four-wheel, or all-wheel drive vehicle, put them on all wheels to improve control.
- Start the “half tank” rule. Until spring returns, make sure all drivers in your home understand they need to fill up immediately when the gauge registers half full. That way, you needn’t worry about running out of gas if you’re ever stuck in traffic during a cold or snowy commute.
- Don’t reduce your tire pressure. That won’t help on ice and snow and actually interferes with steering control.
- Carry an emergency kit that includes gloves, a blanket, warm clothes, nonperishable food and water, sand or cat litter (traction if you get stuck), a flashlight, tire chains (and any tools needed), jumper cables, washer fluid, and matches to warm your key if the lock freezes.
For your home
- Clean guttersto prevent ice damming. During rapid snow melt, plugged gutters could cause water to seep back into the roof (causing leaks) or overflow near the foundation causing leaks and settling.
- Beef up skimpy insulationin basements, attics, and crawl spaces (taking care not to block vents).
- Check drains at the bottom of driveways and exterior stairwells to make sure they’re clear of debris and working properly.
- Check pipes in unheated spaces for leaks and wrap them if they’re exposed. Cover outside faucets with plastic foam hoods.
- Have your furnace and chimney cleaned.
If you’re leaving for an out-of-town vacation:
- Turn off your main water valve, unless you have an automatic fire-sprinkler system.
- Turn off your water heater – essential to avoid risk of a steam explosion if the water’s turned off – and air conditioner.
- Unplug TVs, computers, and appliances susceptible to lightning and power surges.
- Set your thermostat no lower than 55 degrees to keep pipes from freezing. Open doors and cabinets to let warm air circulate. If you heat with oil or propane, make sure the tank is full.
- Show a trusted neighbor how to shut off the gas, water, or electricity to your home in case of emergency.