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Winterize Your Pickup Truck

Get Your Truck Ready to Drive in Cold Weather


Winterize your Pickup Truck

Driving in Snow and Ice

William Thomas Cain/Getty Images
You may think your truck is tough, but is it tough enough for winter? For many of us, winter brings cold, snow, and ice--all conditions that can tax every part of your pickup. All systems should be prepared for winter, from the battery, to the cooling system, to the paint.

Check the Antifreeze

Antifreeze and water are normally mixed at a 50/50 ratio--half water, half antifreeze, a mix that usually brings your protection level to twenty degrees below zero.

If your area temperatures dip below zero, drain a small amount of mix from the radiator and replace it with straight antifreeze. Check the protection level and repeat to adjust as needed.

Too much antifreeze can cause cooling problems in hot weather, so don't get carried away, or plan to change it when spring arrives.

Check the Battery

Water should cover the lead plates inside your pickup truck's battery. If levels are low, add distilled water. Adding water will dilute the electrolyte solution within the battery, so be sure to recharge it afterwards.

More battery checks:

  • Make sure battery cables and terminals are clean and tight.

  • Remember that no matter what you do, a battery can fail without warning.

Winter Tire Safety

  • Tires should have good tread. Inspect them for wear.

  • Cold temperatures lower tire pressure. Adjust pressure as needed based on the manufacturer's recommendation. Remember that pressure stats printed on sidewalls indicate the maximum amount of air pressure tires should be inflated with -- they are not recommended pressures.

  • Switch to snow tires if you regularly travel through snow, or if the snow you do get falls on hilly or steep roads.

  • Depending on your weather and road conditions, you may need to use either studded snow tires or tire chains. Many states have laws prohibiting their use or limiting use to certain months of the year, because using chains or studded tires on dry roads can cause damage to roads. Chains and studs greatly increase stopping distance on hard roads, so must be used with care.

Windshield Washer Maintenance

  • Use a washer solution that won't freeze in your winter temperatures.

  • Top-off the solution regularly since you'll use your windshield washers more often when traveling on slushy streets.

Wiper Blades

  • Replace wiper blades that are more than six months old.

  • If there's frost, frozen rain, or snow on your windshield, make sure wipers are free before turning them on, otherwise you may end up with torn blades, a blown wiper fuse, or a damaged wiper motor.

Engine Oil Changes

  • Check your owner's manual for the recommended viscosity of oil that's appropriate for your winter temperatures.

  • Stay up-to-date on oil changes.

Four Wheel Drive Operation

If your truck has 4WD, check the operation of all components. Make sure items such as locking hubs, the transfer lever, and push button engagement all move freely and actually engage and disengage. The middle of a snow storm is not the time to find out that your 4WD doesn't work.

Everyone who drives your truck should know how to operate its 4WD system.

Paint Protection

  • Cold, ice, snow, salt, and cinders are hard on your pickup truck's paint finish, so start winter with a good coat of wax.

  • Wash the truck as often as possible during the winter. Be sure to clean in the wheel wells and underneath the truck.

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