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Taking car from Texas to Northern NY - what to check

I am about to take my Toyota Venza (2013) from Houston, TX (where it was bought) and drive it to northern NYstate, where I expect to find LOTS of cold weather.
My question is about what should I ask my mechanic to do before I go?
I am not sure if they put anti-freeze in the radiators in cars sold in E Texas? Can I just add anti-freeze?
Do I need to add anything to the front/rear washer reservoir?
Is there anything else I need to worry about?
Is the above something I can do myself?


There’s definitely antifreeze in it or it would overheat. Are you the only owner? Is it up to date on the routine maintenance? You could add de-icer into the windshield washer, but I wouldn’t drain what’s in there. I’d just replace with De-Icer as you use the old stuff up. Otherwise, I would change the oil and filter, make sure all of the tires are in good shape and properly inflated. I would also check all of the fluid levels to make sure they’re at the proper level. What’s the millage on this Venza?

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You don’t need antifreeze.

Your vehicle came from the factory with antifreeze/coolant.

But you might want to look at the tires.

Because, I’ll bet that the tires on the vehicle now are all-season tires.

And if you’re heading to northern NY with the weather predictions for that area, you need winter tires.



45K, I am the only owner - up to date with maintenance (its a 2013)


Agree with Tester but add, check tire pressure and most important, check the weather reports. No need to get caught in a storm if you can avoid it.

Tires, tires, tires, and definitely check the weather reports. We are into lake-effect snow season already up here. But it depends on what you are calling northern NY. That covers a lot of territory with differing weather.

@keith, since this is 2013, it will have a TPMS to keep track of the tire pressures.

I have TPMS in my car, but I still check the pressure with an accurate gauge, especially before any road trip.

Car Talk Lackey

How many miles on the tires? Even if they’re not worn out, you’ll want LOTS of tread for this trip. So if they’re half worn or more, I’d get new ones.

Is this a move, or a short trip?

Great answer, bravesfan, except I’d add, as Tester did, to have winter tires installed or ready to be installed.

Did you tell him about making sure his battery has been serviced recently? Clean terminals, right fluid level, etc.

I grew up in Pennsylvania, now live in San Antonio, and am reminded why I ain’t ever going back.

To get to upper NY you have drive through the snowiest area in the country. Lake effect snow is unpredictable and can dump up to 5" of snow an hour. If you’ve never driven snow this is not a good place to learn

Good idea to have the coolant tested to make sure it has freeze protection to the lowest temperatures you expect to face. I see from Google Buffalos NY’s lowest recorded temperature is -20F, so make sure the coolant freeze protection tests at least to that. Same thing for the windshield washer fluid. If either of those freezes, you’ll have some unpleasant effects to deal with, so best avoided entirely. You’ll need tires rated for winter driving on snow and ice covered roads. You might want to get a set of chains to carry with you too. Ask folks in the area of NY where you are moving to if they carry chains with them. If so, make sure you know how to install the chains. Do this while you are there in Houston. Not something you want to learn on a cold winter night on the side of the road in Buffalo. 3 years in the Houston climate is hard on a battery. Suggest to have it load tested. If it tests at all “iffy”, definitely replace it. An iffy battery will work ok in Houston, but the same battery won’t be able to crank the engine in Buffalo. Another thing to ask someone at your destination is whether they advice an engine block heater. If so, and you can find someone in Houston who knows how to do it, have it done. Otherwise do this the first thing upon arrival in upstate New York. You’ll need a window ice scraper. Probably easier to buy that as you approach your destination. Most gas stations there in New York will have them. Make sure you are prepared so everyone in the car has access to warm clothing, parka, hat, gloves, proper footwear for walking in snow, slush, ice, etc should you stall or get stuck in the snow. Pre-store your cell phone with the necessary emergency phone numbers, like the area’s state police, tow truck companies, etc. Make sure you understand what to do if you have a flat tire. If your car carries a spare tire, test the tire pressure, and do a trial tire change using the car’s jack, while still in Houston.

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I just got home from work and didn’t get a chance to get to the battery yet. Those are also excellent pieces of advice, and easy to do.

I live in south central Pennsylvania, you remember our weather well. Are you just visiting or are you moving up OP? If you’re just visiting and you’ll avoid snow, I probably wouldn’t bother with changing tires. Winter tires get chewed up more quickly on pavement than the all season tires do…

Northern NY implies near the Adirondacks where night time temps of -40F are possible. Make sure your antifreeze goes down to that. Do not leave your summer blend windshield washer fluid in. Use the -20 washer fluid for Buffalo, it is barely adequate here because of evaporative cooling at highway speed. If you are going north of Syracuse or Albany add some isoprophyl alcohol to your washer fluid.

If you have never driven in the snow, no one can tell you how slippery it is because you simply cannot conceive of it.

The first time you hit snow or ice covered roads, try to find a big empty parking lot. Pull in and practice. You may turn around and go back to Texas until spring, or as they call it in Northern NY or New England, Mud Season.

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Adirondacks? Here’s an idea. OP could read Ian Flemming’s James Bond novel The Spy Who Loved Me , most of it takes place in the Adirondacks. The main character seems to have issues with all those trees in the area. Won’t tell much about how to drive there, but it is a fun read. The movie of the same name is good too, but has nothing to do with the book plot.

GeorgeSanJose – Wow! Great input. (Your first long post.) Not a thing to add.

Do you have a snow brush with an ice scraper? I really like the OXO Extendable Twister, especially for larger vehicles, but maybe that’s overkill for your needs.

As for your tire tread, I consider 6/32 to be the minimum for snow, but more is noticeably better.

Others have mentioned tire pressure. To be clear, you really should add air along your trip as the temperature drops so that the cold pressure is always correct each morning. If you can’t do that, it’s better to start with pressure that’s too high than end with pressure that’s too low.

If you’re thinking about washing your car when you arrive, remember that your doors might freeze shut if it’s too cold out. Try to do this in the morning of a sunny day.

If you’re going to the Adirondacks, be aware that cell phone coverage within the park is spotty.

I lived in Messena one winter. I saw several days of -40 and below. You may need to go to a 60/40 antifreeze mixture. -40 is dam cold.

FYI, I just did a map search for a trip from Houston, TX to Watertown, NY (I didn’t know exactly where in northern NY you were headed.) I got two routes: one takes you up to roughly Cleveland, then you follow I-90 all along the Great Lakes; the other has you go to roughly Harrisburg, PA, and take I-81 north, and keeps you a considerable distance from the lakes the whole way.

The latter route is ~1 hour longer (27 vs 26), but comes recommended in the winter, especially if weather is forecast. Those lakes assault I-90 unmercifully with high winds and lake-effect snow!

E[quote=“meanjoe75fan, post:19, topic:97134”]
the other has you go to roughly Harrisburg, PA, and take I-81 north, and keeps you a considerable distance from the lakes the whole way.

You don’t know that area or how far stretching lake effect snow is. I-81 from Syracuse north is one of the snowiest routes in the country. That area is right in the middle of lake effect snow. Lake effect snow storms usually extend 30-50 miles off the lake. The Tug Hill plateau is East of I-81 and it gets buried with several hundred inches of lake effect snow every year.

I-81 in that stretch closes many times every year because of lake effect snow. And you just never know when and where they hit.