It’s so cold out … how cold is it? So cold that you probably don’t want to spend any extra time on car maintenance than you have to. But there are some lazy winter car habits that could end up costing you a lot more … money as well as time. Here are five to avoid.

Lazy Winter Car Habit 1: Not washing your car

We like to think of snow as always soft, always powdery. But anyone who’s driven in a snowy climate knows it’s anything but — and that it makes your car grimy fast. It’s tempting to ignore washing your car. Water and soap can freeze the second they touches its surface. And … it’s too cold out! But not washing your car at all could also do some lasting damage. All that snow, moisture, and road salt can build up quickly and cause rust. So bring your car to a local car wash place. A professional facility can thoroughly remove ice and help prevent damage caused by oxidation. You might also talk to your local detailer about which paint sealant works best for your local climate. 

Lazy Winter Car Habit 2: Not upgrading your tires

If you expect a lot of snow, make sure to get winter tires. And if you live in a climate where it’s OK to use the same tires year-round, at least make sure they’re properly inflated. All it takes is a 10-degree change in temperature to cause your tires to gain or lose 1 pound per square inch (PSI). Rainy conditions call for tires to be replaced when they get down to at least 4/32″ (3mm). Tire grooves need to be such that rainwater can easily flow through them — this helps prevent hydroplaning. For snowy or icy climes, replace tires when they get down to 5/32″ of tread so they can adequately bite into packed-on snow.

Lazy Winter Car Habit 3: Not checking your fluids

The last thing you want is to be blinded by muck flying off the car in front of you … and being out of windshield-washer to boot. So make sure you check your fluids regularly throughout the winter: refill your anti-freeze (don’t mix colors), check your oil (lower viscosity’s good for winter), and ensure you’re good on windshield-washer fluid. 

Lazy Winter Car Habit 4: Letting your gas tank get too low

We get it … who wants to stand in that biting wind at the pump? But you also don’t want to be stuck on the side of the road when your car runs out of gas. In addition, moisture in an empty tank can freeze and crystallize — which can lead to ice in the gas line. So arm yourself with extra blankets, scarves, and jackets so you can stick it out for a few minutes at the pump. You’ll thank yourself later.  

Lazy Winter Car Habit 5: Defrosting your windshield with boiling water

This one’s a huge no-no. Boiling water on a frozen or cold window can break the glass, so stick with water lukewarm water. You can also use one of these other top hacks to defrost your windshield.

And our final tip? Always have a safety net. Should your efforts fall short, an Esurance auto policy could be a major lifesaver.   

DIY hacks

Avatar

about Cathie

Cathie Ericson writes about personal finance, real estate, health, lifestyle, and business topics. When she's not writing she loves to read, hike, and run. Find her @CathieEricson.