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Are You Making These 6 Winter Car Care Mistakes?

Snow, ice and road salt take a toll on your vehicle every winter, but cold-weather car care mistakes could be doing even more harm. Are you guilty of committing these six common blunders?

1. “Warming Up” the Car

Running your car for a couple minutes before heading off to work may get the chill out of the interior or make it easier to scrape the windows, but letting it sit and “warm up” for much longer can be a problem. Long periods of idling can reduce the life span of the sparkplugs or lead to a “plugged” catalytic converter. Along with the wasted gas, you may pay more than you bargained for just to keep your toes warm on your morning drive.

2. Letting the Gas Gauge Hit “E”

If you’re the type to play chicken with your low fuel light, you could be in for a nasty surprise when the temperatures drop. Having too little fuel in the tank leaves room for air to condense, freeze and form ice crystals, which can then wind up in your fuel lines. Plan to stop for gas more often in the winter, and keep a fuel de-icer on hand for the times when you can’t make it to a pump.

3. Defrosting with Hot Water

Hot water is a fast way to melt ice, but it’s not the smartest way if the ice happens to be on your windshield. The smallest imperfection in the glass can quickly turn into an unsightly crack when steaming liquid hits the cold surface. If you don’t have a garage or car port, your best bet for removing ice is to invest in a sturdy scraper. De-icing products are also available to melt stubborn patches of ice the scraper fails to remove.

4. Forgetting about Sun Damage

Sunlight may not feel as warm in the winter as in the summer, but it can still fade the interior of your car. Unless you have the luxury of always parking indoors or in a shady area, it’s smart to carry a window screen in the trunk to use on sunny winter days. You can even buy one with a silly design like eyes on it if you need a little levity to get you through the cold months.

5. Not Measuring and Correcting Tire Pressure

Cold temperatures cause the air in your tires to compress. Every 10-degree drop can lower the pressure by one pound per square inch (PSI). When the pressure becomes too low, your tires lose the ability to perform as well as they should and can even fail completely. Keep a pressure gauge and portable pump close by throughout the winter, and check the tire pressure frequently ensure the right level is maintained.

6. Using the Wipers to Move Heavy Snow

It can be tempting to do the least amount of work necessary to clean your car off and get on the road after a big snow storm, but hopping in and turning on the wipers in an attempt to speed through cleaning your windshield is a surefire way to ruin the blades, burn out the motor or both. Instead of trying to take what is likely to be an expensive shortcut, give yourself enough time to clean the car off without rushing. Take particular care in the area around the wipers, removing snow and ice to prevent the blades from becoming damaged during normal use.

If you want your car to serve you well this winter and for years to come, it’s time to start taking better care of it. Putting in a little extra time, money and effort now can prolong the life of the vehicle and keep you safe during cold weather.

About the Author Theresa “Sam” Houghton is a writer, speaker and health coach from Troy, NY. She’s a regular contributor to, and her work has appeared in the Honest Weight Food Co-Op Coop Scoop, Natural Awakenings Magazine and the 2017 Daily Dozen calendar. She has been a featured guest on Focus on Albany, WMAC’s Food Friday and the Just Ask David podcast. When she's not writing or cooking, Sam likes to read and study the Bible, cook tasty plant-based food and knit socks.

You can find out more about Sam at

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