Winter Car Care and Money Saving Hacks

David Trammel's picture

With the weather turning cold, you may need your windshield wipers more. But what if they produce streaks and don't do a good job. Here's a couple of tricks.

First check your blades. Look for any cracks or broken rubber. If there are some then you really should replace them.

If you don't see any damage then you need to clean them. There's a ton of oil, grease and other contaminates on the road surface, and those get taken up by water and deposited on your wipers and windshield.

Get a hand cloth, preferably something with a nap, but napkins will do in a pinch (though you'll need quite a bit). You'll also need a can of WD-40. Spray a hefty amount of WD-40 onto the cloth and then carefully clean the wiper blades. Keep cleaning them until you don't get any oil on the cloth.

Then take a good glass cleaner and clean the windshield. Do both of these and you should see a lot less streaks. Make this a regular habit and you'll extend the life of your wiper blades.

ADDED: I've changed the name of this post. Feel free to add any ideas for ways to make your car run better in the cold.

My dad taught me this.

Every time you purchase gas, while the pump is operating using that walk-away feature (I don't know what it's called but it's that little latch that keeps the gas flowing) wash your windshields!

All of them, front, back, sides, the mirrors, and run the squeegee over your headlights too. If you clean the glass faithfully, gunk has less of a chance to build up. It doesn't impair your vision and it doesn't build up on the wiper blades.

Every gas station maintains a well of windshield fluid and a squeegee. If you've got two people, one person pumps gas and the other washes down the glass.

As for the headlights: they get scratched and become cloudy over the years. I *think* that if you make a habit of wiping them clean every time you buy gas, you *may* get less cloudiness.

Otherwise, go to the auto parts store and get a kit to clean the headlights. You'll be shocked at the difference and you'll see better at night.

A friend taught me this: if you have a hose bib near where you park your car, take a few minutes and rinse off your car whenever you can. You'll keep the vehicle cleaner, longer, between car washes, making the finish last longer. And, you'll be cleaning the glare off your windshield so you can see better.

One last car tip: always BACK into the parking space. It's troublesome to do but it's much safer, quicker, and easier to pull out because you are not backing into traffic.

David Trammel's picture

Normally I'd agree with you, but as I understand it your tires will pull you forward if they are in the front of the path. So to exit a parking space in snow it might be better to be facing back end towards the street. Considering how here when it snows the plows leave a berm of snow on the side of the street, which unfortunately is across your driveway, at least during expected snow you might want to switch that. Otherwise its good advice. I don't know the statistics but I wouldn't be surprised if more accidents happen when someone is backing up, though they are probably low speed ones.

We don't get that much snow in Central PA. When we do, we go out regularly and shovel, keeping the driveway end clear.

My dad, a North Dakota boy, always recommended shoveling regularly during a snowstorm. It's easier to move smaller amounts of snow more frequently than trying to move two feet at once. Also, know where you're putting that snow: it's insulating water so it's ideal on garden beds.

David Trammel's picture

If you are like many, and put a few extra bottles of isopropyl alcohol in your pandemic medical kit, here's something to do with it now. Combine one two parts 70% isopropyl alcohol with one part water and add a few drops of dish soap. Store in a spray bottle. Much cheaper than the de-icers you buy at the store.

kma's picture


Thank you for the de-icer recommendation. I made a bottle to have ready to go. Not my car, but my coop froze shut last night. The main door to let the ladies out of their apartment was frozen. I let them out the side door, a short hop to the ground, while I got the de-icer. I sprayed it on and it loosed things up to let me slide a butter knife into the gap and pry open the door. Then I sprayed a little around the coop to make it smell better! Usually Mr. KMA has to help me loosen the door when this happens but the spray was sufficient.

I would note I changed my recipe a little. Yours called for dish soap. Some on in the internet called for salt but no way I'm intentionally putting salt on my car. I ended up just doing alcohol, a splash of vinegar and some essential oil to make it smell good. I did this recipe on the knowledge that it would probably get used on the coop door and on my to-do list has been making a coop spray so I decided to combine the two. It worked.

**Also, I have a long-winded rant/blog post on coop design for northern climates in mind but it will take me a while to get to it.

Thanks again!

kma's picture

As a Northerner, these are all useful tips that I've used off and on.

I should make a bottle of de-icer and put in the garage for emergency use. I also note that the chicken coop door froze over 2 nights ago and it took some serious muscle to shake it loose (Had to call in Mr. KMA). That de-icer would have come in handy!

Around here, people also lift up their windshield wipers when anticipating a few inches of snow so as not to find them buried in snow and/or ice. More than once, while on a news break, I've realized there was a storm coming by looking at other people's cars.

Also recommend upping the emergency box in the car to have extra hats/gloves/blankets/food. I've always heard about kitty litter to gain traction if needed but never had to use it. Keeping a small shovel in the trunk can be useful to dig out.