Preparing the car for winter: Safely through the cold season

Kamilya - November 24, 2023

Every year, the onset of winter takes many drivers by surprise. Can you relate? The first frost bites into the car battery, leaving the starter wheezing. Windshield washer fluid is frozen, and a thick layer of ice covers the windows. On top of that, the roads are extremely slippery, and the tires are spinning. And there's an important meeting to attend! Now, good advice is worth its weight in gold. At CARIFY, we have put together the ultimate winter check for you so that you can face the cold season with ease. Winterizing your car - a brief checklist.

This checklist gives you a quick overview of what to pay attention to during the cold season.

  1. Tire Change

  2. Antifreeze

  3. Battery Check

  4. Lights

  5. Windshield Wipers

  6. Door Seal Maintenance

  7. Brake Inspection

  8. Winter Kit: Ice Scraper, Gloves, and more.

Tire Change: From Summer to Winter Tires

In many European countries, there is a mandatory requirement for winter tires. Not so in Switzerland, although winters are known to be snowy. However, there is an obligation to adapt the vehicle and driving behavior to weather conditions. What does that mean? Even though driving without winter tires in cold weather is not punishable by law, it's better not to take the risk. Seasonally appropriate tires contribute not only to your safety but also to that of other road users. The rubber compound of winter tires is softer, providing better grip on icy surfaces. This means you are less likely to skid, and the braking distance is shorter compared to summer tires. Sipes in winter tires provide grip in the snow, while the grooves in summer tire profiles effectively drain water.

How can you recognize winter tires? If a snowflake is depicted in a stylized mountain on the tire sidewall, you have a winter-ready tire. Then there are also all-season tires. They also bear the Alpine symbol and often a descriptive name that identifies them as all-weather tires. With them, you can avoid the hassle of changing tires. This is a good solution if you mostly drive short distances in the city and aren't traveling in extreme weather conditions. However, they are not sufficient for such conditions. Another disadvantage: All-season tires used year-round wear out faster and need to be replaced after 35,000 km or 2 to 4 years (winter and summer tires each last 40,000 km or 6 years). The calendar week and the year of manufacture are revealed by the four-digit DOT number on the tire sidewall. Tip: If you always maintain the optimal tire pressure, you extend the lifespan.

And when should you change the tires? The rule of thumb is from "O to O," meaning from October to Easter is the right time for winter tires. Then you are already prepared for the onset of winter before the first frost. Tip: Check the tread depth with every tire change. Whether summer or winter tires, they can only fulfill their function optimally if they are not worn down. Also, fines of up to 100 Swiss francs or even a temporary driver's license withdrawal await you if you are caught with insufficient tread. It must be at least 1.6 millimeters, but a recommended depth is at least 3 to 4 millimeters. Important: Don't forget the spare tire. Does it have enough tread and pressure?

winter driving

Check and Adjust Fluids in the Car

Not only windshield washer fluid needs antifreeze, but also the coolant. Normally, protection up to -25 °C is sufficient unless you live in regions where it regularly gets colder. You can determine whether the fluids in your vehicle are winter-ready with a cold engine using a test device. Gas stations provide these, or you can ask a garage for help. Important: Never open the coolant cap with a hot engine, as escaping water could scald you.

Keep an Eye on the Battery

Cold affects the car battery, especially the older it gets. You should invest in a new one every 5 years at the latest. To ensure your vehicle reliably starts in winter, have the battery checked in the workshop, for example, during the tire change as part of the winter check. If you notice the battery is weakening, you can revive it overnight with a charger. To be prepared for any situation, a jumper cable is an essential winter accessory for cars.

Ensure Visibility: Lights and Windows

Seeing and being seen is crucial, especially in the cold season. Therefore, you should pay some attention to your lighting. Are the headlights adjusted so that you can see well without blinding other road users? It's best to have this checked during the winter check-up for your car in the garage. You should regularly remove mud and snow residues and keep the lights on the vehicle clean.

Cleanliness is also essential for your windows. It's not enough to quickly clear a peephole in the morning and wait for the blower and rear window heater to do the rest. You can only start driving once all windows and mirrors are ice-free. Slinging mud not only obstructs the view but can also scratch the windows and damage the wiper blades. Therefore, keep the car windows clean in winter.

Brake Check

Good brakes are important throughout the year, but in winter, snow and ice turn roads into slippery surfaces. The braking distance often significantly increases. Therefore, you should have the brakes checked as part of the winter inspection. Are they still gripping well? Are brake pads and discs in good condition?

Prepare Winter Equipment

The ice scraper is your best friend in winter. But your winter kit should include other things as well:

Gloves – by the time you've cleared the entire car of snow and ice, your fingers have likely turned into icicles. Waterproof gloves that allow you to grip the ice scraper well will protect your hands. There are even gloves with integrated ice scrapers.

Ice Scraper – plastic scrapers remove ice crusts without damaging the windshield.

Hand Broom – it removes snow from the entire vehicle. You also need to remove snowboards from the car roof and hood because they can come loose during the drive and affect you or other road users.

Door Lock De-icer – quickly thaws frozen locks.

Jumper Cables – if the vehicle won't start, another driver can help you with a jump start using the cables.

Windshield Wiper Insulation Film – prevents wiper blades from freezing to the windshield. It also serves as protection for the rubber against frost.

Covering Film – not everyone has a garage to protect their vehicle from precipitation. You can wrap the entire car in a cover in winter. This protects it from scratches, such as those caused by kicked-up gravel, as well as from snow. Alternatively, covers for the front and rear windows save you a lot of work. You simply remove them before driving and don't have to scrape.

Wool Blanket – keeps you warm if you get stranded in a lonely place in winter.

Flashlight – lets you take a look under the hood in the dark.

Snow Chains – in snowy areas, they provide more traction.


Which car parts are particularly susceptible in winter?

Windshield Wipers – in wintry precipitation, the wipers work hard. Low temperatures make the rubber of the wiper blades brittle, so it can easily be damaged (such as when you push snow to the side using the wipers). Cracks in the rubber cause streaks on the windshield. If the wipers don't make good contact, they leave a film of dirt. So check in time whether your wiper blades can still serve for a season and replace them if necessary. Instead of letting the wipers do this work, scrape ice and snow off by hand carefully.

Door Seals – they are also made of rubber, which loses elasticity in frost. In the worst case, they freeze and tear when you forcibly open the door. What to do? First, clean the door seals and dry them thoroughly. Then apply deer tallow, silicone, or glycerin, which prevents freezing and at the same time cares for the seals.

Door Lock – if frost follows wetness, the door lock of your car parked outdoors can freeze. You can prevent this with graphite spray. For emergencies, you should have de-icing fluid with you – outside the vehicle.

Body – moisture, road salt, gravel, all of this can take a toll on the paint and underbody of your vehicle in winter. To prevent rust, have paint damage repaired in time. A fresh underbody protection after thorough underbody cleaning should also be applied.

When is the best time to winterize the car?

Don't wait until the first ice flowers appear on the windows. Ideally, the winter check should take place in October. In the garage, all relevant parts of the car are prepared for winter so that your vehicle can safely and reliably get you through the cold season.


The annual winter check should be one of your fixed dates in the calendar. If neglected, it can be expensive. If something happens, you may even risk losing your insurance coverage, even if you are not entirely at fault. You are on the safe side with a car subscription from CARIFY. We have a real worry-free package for you:

  • You only get new cars from us or first-class maintained young used cars.

  • The subscription price includes taxes, registration, and insurance premiums.

  • Also included: repairs, semi-annual tire change, and service at one of our many partner garages throughout Switzerland.

This ensures that your subscription vehicle is always in perfect technical condition and won't let you down even in the snow.

Be safe on the road all year round with one of our car subscriptions from CARIFY!

Check out our range of Volvo cars, Volkswagen, Ford subscriptions, and much more!

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