Winterizing my car

I’m planning a trip from Barstow, CA to Jacksonville, NC in Dec - Jan of this year.

I know I need to have chains, de-icing windshield washer fluid, and different weight oil. Is there anything I’m missing?

She who must be obeyed would be very upset if we had a problem that could have been avoided.

Also, I don’t think I should change my oil before I leave home, but at what point do I pull in and change the oil?



I don’t think you can put chains on a Sonata. Check the owner’s manual. If you’re worried about snow, install winter tires. Or stay in a motel until the roads are cleared. Depending on your route you may not encounter any snow. And if you’re not used to driving in the snow you’re better off parking the car until it stops snowing.

Why do you think you need a different oil? If you’re using 5W-30 or 10W-30 you’re OK at any temperature. Again, information about this is in the owner’s manual.

Change the oil at the specified interval, as you normally would.

Have the coolant tested to make sure it has sufficient cold weather protection.

I know I need to have chains, de-icing windshield washer fluid, and different weight oil. Is there anything I’m missing?

  • Chains: I would not bother. You should be able to to avoid the worse of the weather, and if a real storm hits, you can just find a motel and wait it out. Even with chains, that is what I would do. Chains in this case are likely overkill, unless you have some special need that would prevent you from adjusting your trip if the weather really gets bad.

  • Washer fluid: Yes get winter rated fluid. Run what you now have in there almost empty before putting in the winter rated stuff.

  • Different rate oil: It is not likely you will need any change. In grandpa’s day with single weight oil or standard multi rate oil it was a need, but modern synthetic multi weight oil, you don’t need anything special, just stick with what is recommended in the owner’s manual.

  • Driver Training: You did not list this one, but it is more important than any of the other things listed. Taking a long trip when it likely will include winter driving conditions when the driver(s) have no or limited winter driving experience, could be both a dangerous and very stressful trip. If you or your wife lack winter driving experience, I would suggest reconsidering your plans. We would like to have you around to post back how much you enjoyed your trip.

All things considered, train or plane tickets may be the best bet.

Good advice so far. Forget the chains; buy good winter tires, such as Michelin X-ICE. The standard 5W30 oil is good for the entire continental USA, as specified by the manufacturer.

Make sure your washer fluid reservoir has the winter (blue) fluid in it.

Not much else to do. I once drove East to West in the winter along the I 94 Northern route. In Grand Forks, North dakota we hit a snow storm. We checked into the Holiday Inn for a day until it passed. If you have no winter driving experience, it’s foolish to drive right through. Bring your cell phone and AAA card, just in case.

I’ve done the cross country trip 9 times, 4 of which were in the winter.

P.S. Buy a good snow brush/scraper at the first service station that sells them

Make sure you get the -20 or -25 washer fluid for this trip. Several stores now sell summer fluid (for the same price) which is near-worthless in the winter. I bought some by mistake previously, providing a learning experience for me.

Good point jay; the temperature rating will be on the jug. Last year in October, Walmart here was still pushing summer fluid, although winter comes early here.

When I was a kid, back in the '50s, it was normal for an owner to have his car “winterized” each year here in the Northeast. However, that was back in the days of single-viscosity motor oil, alcohol-based antifreeze, 6-volt batteries, generators, carburetors and chokes, the need for annual tune-ups, and 1,000 mile oil change intervals. All of this stuff went away shortly after the era of the hula-hoop.

The “normal” 5w-20 viscosity oil that is in your crankcase should be equally appropriate for both California and North Carolina. Depending on how well your mystery-vintage Sonata has been maintained, the antifreeze/coolant may be fine, or it may need to changed on the basis of odometer mileage and/or elapsed time. However, the recommended mixture of coolant and water is the same in California and North Carolina.

Most likely, the only thing that you need to update is the type of windshield washer fluid that is in the reservoir.

Chains are cumbersome to install, and must be removed as soon as you come to a clear (non snow-covered) stretch of roadway. Installing them and removing them involves laying on cold, wet pavement. Do you see yourself doing that several times each day as you drive from well-plowed roads to snow-covered roads?

As was already said, modern winter tires (not snow tires) give incredibly improved grip for starting, stopping, and turning on both snow and ice. You would be far better-off with a set of 4 winter tires, as compared to tire chains. Like Docnick, I favor the Michelin X-Ice tire for winter driving.

Welcome to the modern era of motoring!

You probably don’t need chains. If you are really paranoid, tire cables would work better for your car, but if you need them at all, you are better off waiting for the weather to clear.

You don’t need a different weight oil. Check your owner’s manual. The oil you use is probably fine for that climate. If your car calls for 5W-30 oil, but says 10W-30 is also acceptable in warm climates, just make user you use 5W-30 for your next oil change.

You are overthinking this. Just make your antifreeze/coolant has been changed in the last two years and use windshield fluid that doesn’t freeze. Also make sure your car is properly maintained otherwise, and you will be fine.