Don't Get Stuck in the Cold: How to Keep Your Car Running in the Winter

A blue car engulfed in snow.

No matter where you are as you read this post, it's a safe bet that its cold outside. Really cold. We've barely dipped our toes into 2014 and already this winter is adding up to be one for the record books with every state being affected. Even those "always sunny" states of California and Florida are experiencing cold snaps forcing residents to put on sweaters. The horror!

When your state issues a travel advisory, it is best to stay put. However, there are those occasions when snuggling up on the sofa and binge-watching "House of Cards" just won't cut it; you have to go out. To make sure your car is running in the winter, follow these helpful hints:

Always Have Your Gas Tank Half-Full

Your gas tank should always be at least half-full. This will reduce the risk of your gas lines becoming frozen.

Check Your Battery Life

Old car batteries take a beating in cold weather, that leads to them draining very fast. A five-minute diagnostic from your local mechanic will tell you what shape your battery is in. If you can't remember the last time you changed your battery, it might be time for the swap.

Warm Up for Five Minutes

This is the time of year when you regret not getting a new car with a remote starter. Before heading out into the frigid temps, you should warm up your car for at least five minutes. Keeping the engine running for the duration of two songs on the radio should do the trick. If you're parked in your garage, make sure the door is open. On the street, you need to make sure your tailpipe is clear of snow/ice.

Go for Thinner Oil

If you're living in snow central and are going in for a regular oil change, you might want to switch to 5W-30 instead of the standard 10W-30. As the thermometer drops, oil tends to thicken. With a thinner grade your viscosity will be consistent in the cold.

Use the Right Amount of Antifreeze

When adding antifreeze, you need to follow the instructions. Not enough antifreeze or too much water could cause your engine block to crack. Then it's game over.

Replace Your Wiper Blades

If your wiper blades are older than six months, then they've got to go. There are such things as special winter wiper blades that you should install. Also, make sure your wiper fluid has been weatherized for the winter - as in using only cold weather washer fluid.

Use a Lighter for a Frozen Lock

If your manual locks become frozen, don't pour hot water on them. That will only make things worse. Instead, heat your key with a lighter and use that in the lock.

Pack an Emergency Kit

There have been plenty of news stories about motorists getting stranded in a snowy highway pile up. Prepare for the worst by having a winter emergency kit in your car. This should include blankets, water, spare cell phone charger and kitty litter. Yes, kitty litter makes for great traction if you're stuck in the ice.

When was the last time you got stuck in the snow? Is there anything you regret not doing for your car? Sharing your stories could help someone else!