You may have to gird yourself mentally for the long, cold slog, but getting your car ready for winter is no big deal. All you have to do is pay attention to the most weather-sensitive components of your car, so they can survive the elements for three or four months.
Here are the four key areas to check out so that you can make it until spring without a breakdown:
Keep it turning over. Cold weather is tough on car batteries. What goes on inside a battery does not work as well in cold weather. Some of the ways to avoid a failure in the winter are: calculate the age of your battery, since only 30 percent of all batteries make it to the 48-month mark; keep your battery terminals clean, since corrosion at the battery connection can cause the same no-start condition as a marginal battery; and have your battery load tested to see if it can withstand the stress of bad weather.
See the problems ahead. Remember that you will be facing reduced visibility during winter storms. It is important to be able to see and to be seen. This may mean that you will need to refurbish the headlamp lenses of your car. Kits are available which make it a very doable DIY project (expertise level needed = 1). Then, make sure your wiper blades are not frayed and that the superstructures (the metal part) are not bent. Test their efficiency by using the washers and looking for gaps as they wipe the glass. Do a walk around the car and make sure all the lights are working.
Roll on, safely. Forget about evaluating your tires for the safety of their tread depth--now is the time to think about traction. What might be fine for fair weather driving may not afford you any gripping power in two inches of snow. Now is the time to address any low tire issues that you might have been tolerating. It is a lot tougher to inflate tires when it is cold outside and it is easy for a tire to go completely flat overnight in the winter, when water can accumulate between the bead and the rim and freeze while you are warm and snugly in bed.
Stay cool. This is the big one. Miscalculating or procrastinating about the integrity of your cooling system can cost you an engine. Make sure your anti-freeze is up to the task. A tester can be purchased for less than $5 and you can test it yourself with no problem. Think about any cooling system repairs that you might have had done since last winter, which could have resulted in the anti-freeze being diluted. If there have been those kinds of repairs, check your invoice to make sure coolant was added or definitely have anti-freeze strength checked. While you're under the hood, check the belts and hoses, look for cracking or excessive oil or grease accumulating on them, which would be conditions signaling replacement.
These certainly are not the only parts of your car to check in preparation for winter, but if you do these checks it will certify for winter your car’s most vulnerable systems.