Is your car prepared? (Photo: Flickr/Jason McDowell)
As you plan to winterize your car, the first thing you should do is consult the maintenance schedule in the owner's manual for your vehicle. You can also consider this general set of guidelines and ideas (with a variation or two for cars like a Prius or a Chevy truck):
1. Make sure the cooling system's antifreeze is at a 50/50 mixture of coolant and water. Your auto parts store can sell you a hydrometer to check this.
2. Change the engine oil and use a viscosity oil designed for colder freezing temperatures, like a 5w/20 (consult owner's manual for each vehicle).
3. Do a complete inspection of all hoses and belts. Replace any hoses that feel mushy or show signs of cracks. Replace any belt that shows signs of cracking.
4. Have the batteries load tested. (Just the 12-volt battery in the right rear interior panel in a Prius.) Replace a battery if it fails the test.
5. If there is a lot of snow in your area during winter, then consider mud and snow tires; if not, place tire chains in the trunk. (This is probably not necessary for a vehicle like a Chevy truck.)
6. Check wipers, and use a good washer fluid in the washer reservoirs.
7. Perform any maintenance that is required based on mileage (tune-ups, transmission or cooling system service, etc.). Again, go by the maintenance schedule in the owner's manual for each vehicle.