Get Your Toyota Ready For The Winter

Modern vehicles are fairly rugged, but Mother Nature is a tough old lady. Despite your Toyota’s potent capabilities, winter conditions aren’t you want to take lightly. Here are five suggestions for making sure you and your Yota’ are ready for the winter.

Toyota in snow

Check Your Tires

  • Tire rubber also becomes less pliable in cold weather, causing air leaks. Check over the sidewalls of your tires for any signs of cracking or damage.
  • Consider snow tires if you frequently travel through snow or reside in an area with steep roads or hills. Although “all-season” tires tend to perform well in wet conditions, light snow, and ice, they struggle when put to the test in heavier winter conditions.

Finally, after checking your tires, it’s probably a good idea to test your 4WD system in high and low (assuming you have one). Take your truck to a dry (and empty) parking lot, engage 4wd, and then take a slow (but sharp) turn in either direction. You should feel some hesitancy in 4 “high,” and the resistance should be stiff in 4 “low.” Once you feel that resistance, straighten out the wheels, disengage the 4wd, and (for giggles) back up about 20 feet. That way you can ensure there’s no binding in the driveline.

NOTE: “Hesitancy” in 4HI isn’t always easy to feel. If you don’t feel it, test the truck in 4LOW. If you feel the resistance in 4LOW (and you can’t miss it), then it’s safe to assume 4HI is working.

Check Your Coolant

Coolant testers (particularly the testing strips, but also many hydrometers) are notoriously inaccurate, so it’s a mistake to trust them. Instead, find a shop that uses a refractometer to test coolant quality, then ask them to complete this test during a normal service stop.

If the refractometer test says you need to flush or adjust your coolant mixture, then you can do so.

Additionally, grab your Toyota’s owner’s manual, read up on how to make sure it has sufficient coolant, then verify. Do NOT just look at what you think the coolant reservoir/overflow tank “says” and start adding coolant.

Check Hoses, Belts, And Battery

It’s a very good idea to hook your battery up to a tester before the cold weather hits, as it will give you a heads-up about your battery’s ability to survive the winter.


  • Take 2 minutes and clean off your battery terminals and connectors, then reconnect and ensure connections are tight. Grab some petroleum jelly to seal the connectors from corrosion while you’re at it.
  • While you can visually inspect your belts and hoses for cracks, it’s not always the best way to tell if they need to be replaced. Instead, consult your truck’s scheduled maintenance guide and replace hoses and belts following the manufacturer’s interval.

Replace Wiper Blades And Top Off Washer Fluid

There’s nothing quite like a fresh set of wiper blades – the difference between blades with a few months of wear and a new set is often profound. (Check out this buyer's guide for more details on wipers.)

Sidebar: Personally, I don’t spend a lot of money on premium blades, as I’d rather buy new “bargain” blades once or twice a year than try to make a set of premium blades last more than one season.

Tips for making your wiper blades last:

  • A drop of dish soap can also lessen the wear on your wiper blades significantly.
  • Prior to turning on your wipers, make sure they’re free from ice and snow or you may tear a blade, blow a wiper fuse, or damage the wiper motor
  • If you remember to pull your wiper arms up off the glass after you park, they can’t freeze

Finally, would you rather top off washer fluid now, or stop at the convenience store this winter, spend $4 on a bottle of washer fluid that should cost $1, then try to fill the washer fluid reservoir in cold weather?

Do You Have A Winter Emergency Kit?

In some parts of North America, a winter emergency kit is a paranoid luxury. In other parts, it’s an absolute necessity. If you live in a region where winter weather can potentially leave you stranded, it’s a very good idea to build your own little winter emergency kit. Suggested kit components include…

  • Jumper cables
  • A flashlight and road flares (or LED marker rights)
  • Screwdrivers, wrenches, and some spare fuses
  • A standard first aid kit
  • Warm clothes and a good blanket
  • Water, food, and (if necessary) essential medication
  • An ice scraper (or two)
  • A small shovel (folding camp shovels are handy)
  • A bag of kitty litter, salt, or sand
  • Extra windshield washer fluid
  • Tire chains
  • A tow rope
  • An emergency cell phone charger that uses alkaline batteries to get a quick charge into your phone in case of an emergency

It might seem like overkill to put all of these things in your car for the winter months, but it’s MUCH better to have these things and not use them than the opposite.

Also, if you live in a particularly cold area, your winter survival kit should probably include cold weather sleeping bags, extra fuel, extra socks and gloves, and extra food.