Whether you love winter or dread it, one thing you can’t do is ignore it. Unless you live a ways south of the Mason-Dixon line, in which case, carry on. For those remaining cold few (or many), let’s talk this winter’s best hacks, tips, and tools for staying warm.
Tip: Heater System Tune-up
Level: Easy to Experienced
If your cabin remains lukewarm at best, your heating system may need a tune-up. Before you head to the shop, though, check your antifreeze/coolant. A car’s heater works by passing radiator fluid through your hot engine to a heater core. A blower passes air over the heater core and directs the heat into the cabin. Problems with your heating system can originate at any point along the way, but checking for sufficient antifreeze is an easy place to start and might save you money.
Problems with your heating system can originate at any point along the way, but checking for sufficient coolant is an easy place to start and might save you money.
First, make sure your engine is cool. Then check the quality of your current antifreeze using an inexpensive antifreeze/coolant tester. This video shows you how. If the tester indicates that your antifreeze isn’t up for the challenge of winter, you may need to flush your radiator.
Otherwise, go ahead and top off your coolant with fresh antifreeze. Be sure to check your coolant reservoir as well, adding antifreeze to the cold fill line. Now, take your vehicle for a drive and see if adding coolant was a simple solution to the problem. If not, the issue might be with the thermostat or even your heater core. Experienced DIYers can tackle the full tune-up, but others may want to visit a trusted mechanic.
Tools: Winter Tool Kit
A well-stocked tool kit can go a long way toward making your winter more comfortable (and safer). Save time and elbow grease with windshield spray de-icers or de-icer windshield washer fluid. Keep lock de-icers handy to prevent winter from freezing you out. In case of roadside emergencies, stash a flashlight and reflectors or flares in your glovebox and a spare shovel in the trunk. Add thermal foil blankets and chemical hand warmers to stay warm without giving rodents a place to nest.
Hack: Remote Start Kits
Level: Experienced/Consider Hiring a Professional
Vehicles with a remote start feature have been around for decades, and so have aftermarket remote start kits. On the upside, these kits could cost thousands less than purchasing a new vehicle. They also allow you to warm and defrost your car before you even step out into the snow. Remote start kits only work on automatic engines, however, and require a working knowledge of your vehicle’s electrical system. Purchase a quality kit, and read the instructions carefully. If in doubt, hire a professional to finish the job.
Hack: Heated Seat Kits
Level: Easy to Experienced/Consider Hiring a Professional
If your vehicle isn’t equipped with heated seats, you may be facing the dreaded cold-bum conundrum. Is there anything worse? We don’t think so. For an easy solution, use one of the many heated seat warmers on the market. These usually slide over top your existing seat and plug into your vehicle’s 12 Volt outlet. Installing universal seat heaters can also bring much-needed relief. Unless you relish the thought of removing your vehicle’s seats and disassembling them though (and you DIYers might!), installing universal seat heaters may be a job for your favorite aftermarket shop.
Tool: Portable Micro-Boost Battery Chargers
Nothing beats a fresh battery when it comes to powering your vehicle through the cold season. That said, life and extreme drops in temperature happen. Should you find yourself in a dark, snowy parking lot with a dead car battery, a portable micro-boost charger can get you back on the road. Use a micro-boost to jumpstart a dead battery or power accessories like smartphones, reducing the overall demand on your vehicle. Keep a portable battery charger in your trunk or glove box, and check its charge level on a regular basis.
Is winter a force to be reckoned with where you live? Leave a comment below about which winter tips, tools, or hacks keep you warm.