How much do I need to winterize?

I just moved to Syracuse and I’m wondering how much it’s worth winterizing my Nissan Versa. It’s a 2007 with about 65,000 miles on it, moderate body conditions with some normal dents and scratches. I do not drive to the office (I can walk), so it’s pretty much going to be used for going to workout and driving to a once-weekly club that is 40 minutes away.

Is it worth getting snow tires? How about sealing the car against rust?

I have not lived somewhere this snowy before. When I lived in rural Michigan I did not have snow tires, and there were definitely some handling problems on back roads occasionally during the winter. I hear that Syracuse and the surrounding areas really heavily salt the road, as well.

Has the coolant been changed?
If not, this is the time to do it, so that you have coolant (which is also your antifreeze) with the proper concentration and with sufficient anti-corrosion properties.

Yes, it is worthwhile to get WINTER tires, in light of the incredible amount of snow that the Syracuse area gets during a typical winter season. (The term “snow tires” went out of fashion shortly after the disco era)

Sealing the car against rust?
If it was brand-new, this might be something to consider.
However, with a car that is already at least 7 years old, the chassis is already coated with so much detritus that any attempt at rust-coating would probably be futile.

The best DIY method to protect the vehicle from rust is give the body a wax job.


Yes you can treat your body for rust , but probably not where you live if you do it yourself Snow tires are worth it if you must go in in snow. Rust in salt areas happens when the salted water and brine run down windows to bottom of door, splash up around fender joints underneath and leach into the insides of rocker panels. No one I know can wax these areas. Run your car regularly through a touch less wash and spry wax can help finish but does nothing for salt water. Some car washes will power spray the underneath which can help minimally but the only sure fire way is to not drive in heavily salted areas or have a yearly oil treatment sprayed into body cavities through drain holes and removed body plug access which some places do. The oil, usually biodegradable, will cut O2 supply to rust areas and help delay rust as long as you do the treatment. Only light oils work as they don’t clog drain holes but do need yearly or bi annual application. Unibody cars like your compact are very easy to do and can be kept rust free indefinitely in areas you treat.

Here’s some good tips.


Temperature-wise, rural Michigan is not a lot different from Syracuse. The amount of snow in the latter, however, is much more. Good winter tires and having the coolant serviced is about all I would do.

Forget about additional corrosion protection on a car this age. A good wax job might help somewhat, but your car will rust out much quicker in Syracuse. Take a trip to Montreal, Canada one weekend and observe the cars there. It’s the most corrosive city in North America, and cars don’t live very long. Syracuse is only slightly better.

I grew up north of Syracuse…and went to college and worked/lived in Syracuse for a few years.

Rust is your biggest concern. I found that washing the vehicle once a week does wonders.

Get your radiator/fluid checked. Winter blades do help in areas like Syracuse.

As for winter/snow tires…This is one area of the country where I say you should get them. Even though you won’t be driving much…more then half of Syracuse’s 120" of annual snow fall is lake-effect snow. The problem with lake-effect snow it’s almost impossible to predict. Forecasters maybe able to predict lake-effect conditions…but it’s impossible to predict WHERE. I’ve seen lake effect storms that were only 5 miles wide. And in those 5 miles - over 18" of snow was dumped. North or South of those 5 miles…no snow to a little dusting.

Given that you can walk to work, you can get by with all-season tires, as long as they have good tread and good reviews on their snow performance. However, winter tires will give you the flexibility to go out in more conditions without worrying about the forecast, so that would be worthwhile to me. If you plan to going to the local ski areas, then you’re more likely to need them. Many people put them on separate inexpensive steel rims for easier changing each year.

How old is your battery? If it’s original, there’s a very good chance it won’t make it the winter there.

You are not planning to drive much in “got to get there” situations. But as you live there a while and want to check out more places, or just get away, and not feel hemmed in by winter, keep in mind the winter handling problems you sometimes had in MI. Will those problems compromise your freedom to move around and/or your safety to an important extent? If yes, and if you plan to keep the vehicle, consider buying a set of winter tires of steel rims. This would run maybe $600-700 for your vehicle. I bought some from and had them shipped to my workplace.

I faced a similar quandary here in Superior/Duluth. I liked my Honda but its winter behavior was kind of scary. I swap the wheel/tires every November and April. The difference in traction is noticeable and gratifying. 15 years later the car is on its second set of winter tires. Over the long run the additional cost is pretty small.

Thanks, folks. I think I’m going to hold off of snow tires since my all-season set is pretty new and I have an all-wheel drive vehicle with snow tires I can use during storms. I am planning to replace the battery, though, and get the coolant and windshield wiper fluid swapped for winter mixes. I’ll get the car hand waxed and just make sure to keep it washed to prevent rust. More than that sounds like it’s probably over-kill for a rarely driven, 7 year old car. Thanks!

Winter wiper blades would be a good idea too. Syracuse has those storms where wipers with metal arms ice up big time.

@Docnick. “Forget about additional corrosion protection on a car this age.”

I have to respond this way.
On the post just before this statement, I went through what anyone can do to delay rust on ANY car regardless of it’s age. It’s just a matter of your willingness to do it ( spray biodegradable oil) or have someone do it. IT WORKS.
Rusted body panels start from the inside 99% of the time. You can delay that as long as you treat that area inside by coating INSIDE THROUGH THE DRAIN HOLES and any plugs you can remove. It has nothing to do with undercoating which is useless. It takes very little oil !,On frames and any area left un painted, you can stop the rust with simple treatments there. WAXING DOES NOTHING to stop rust where it is the real problem, from the inside and on un painted components underneath. Waxing protects the paint. But, unless the paint is scraped off, it still prevents rust. Salt is corrosive to paint and a wax job does help preserve the paint as does washing. But, seldom does any rust start from the painted surface inwards. It starts from inside the panels where you cannot wax where the surfaces cannot be washed easily and but applied oils cut the o2 so rust cannot continue.

If you get a nick in the winter time that you can’t re paint, just put ( and keep) a dab of grease over it until warm weather. It will rust no further till you can get to repaint it. This is all simple stuff anyone can do on any car, any age. It doesn’t have to be messy or environmentally unsound. You need not be mechanically astute, just be willing to do it every other year at least…it might take 20 minutes per car.

“Hand wax and just make sure to keep it washed to prevent rust.” @BeckyNissan.
With all due respect,it reminds me of the days I used to teach…
;)))) hand waxing and washing the outside of a car helps the painted surfaces but will not prevent rust !

One discussion on rocker panels.

I would get snow tires and make sure your coolant and windshield washer fluid are fresh.

@BeckyNissan - Don’t hold off on winter tires. I live and work in the Syracuse and Rochester area. All season tires get hard at around 50 degrees and don’t have the bite in snow and ice that winter tires deliver. The difference in safety and security is amazing. And your all season tires will last longer if you take them off every winter. Go to Tire Rack and order a set of winter tires on steel wheels and put them on in late November. The first time you have to drive in the snow you will thank me (and others on this board) for this advice. If you don’t have winter wiper blades or beam blades then you should switch those out too. Standard wipers will clog with ice and snow and leave you blind.

You should also throw a bag of sand or kitty litter in the trunk for traction in case you get stuck. A warm blanket is also a good idea to have in the trunk. Don’t replace the battery until you have it tested. Most of the auto stores will run a complete test for free in about 10 minutes. They will tell you if you need a battery or not. And get a really awesome snow brush. You will use it a ton!!!

“You should also throw a bag of sand or kitty litter in the trunk for traction in case you get stuck.”

Make sure it isn’t clumping kitty litter (which turns to slippery goo in snow). Also, I once saw a person who was stuck in a parking lot putting sand under the rear tires of a front wheel drive car. Don’t be that person.

Kitty litter is not worthwhile. Sand, or stone grit, available at hardware stores, is far better.

I agree winter tires mounted on their own steel wheels are well worth it, especially if you plan to keep the car for a few years.

I learned the hard way about winterizing the windshield wiper fluid. Here is San Jose Calif it seldom freezes so we can just use water with a little soap for the spray to wash the windshield; but if we do that, and drive to Lake Tahoe to go skiing in the winter, we learn fast that isn’t such a good idea as it can ruin the washer fluid spray pump when it freezes.

Throwing a bag of kitty litter in the trunk of a fwd car is good for use. Just don’t forget that it does nothing to add traction to drive wheels when it isn’t spread on the ground but just sits there. As a matter of fact, getting extraneous weight OUT of the trunk in a fwd is advantageous. This is one time in slippery going especially on hills where it pays to drive with no one in the the rear seats. Fwd cars loose traction as they get loaded down instead of gaining if the loads go in the rear. Think of that the next time you try to drive up a hill. It might go better backwards.

Before I retired, I remember a fellow coworker telling me they put plenty of tube sand in the trunk of their fwd car, like their dad did years ago but it never seemed to help as much for their cars even though it had snow tires. A friendly reminder that they had fwd and their dad had rwd cars was all that was need for them to take the weight out and throw it in the garage…where it belonged.

I recommend dumping the sand into closable plastic containers. Sand absorbs water… water freezes. Get stuck in a 20F storm after a few sub freezing weeks and you just might be trying to spread a chunk of frozen sand… similar to a huge brick.

“I once saw a person who was stuck in a parking lot putting sand under the rear tires of a front wheel drive car.”

Many years ago, I thought that I would try to be helpful by pointing out to a woman who was throwing sand underneath the rear tires of her Olds Toronado that she should be throwing the sand underneath the front tires. She removed the cigarette from the corner of her mouth just long enough to call me an idiot, and to inform me that, “The front tires are moving really well. It’s the rear tires that won’t move, sonny!”.

I gave myself a dope slap, said something on the order of, “Of course, you are right”, and walked away chuckling about her ignorance, as well as her nasty attitude. If she had displayed a decent attitude, I would have given her car a push.