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10 Things to Keep Your Electric or Hybrid Car in Good Shape for the Winter

Don't let old man winter catch you off guard. Keep your hybrid/electric car running smoothly during the winter months. Here are 10 things that electric/hybrid car owners need to do to keep their cars performing well in winter.

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shutterstock_590415338-1 hybrid car under the hoodDreamnikon/Shutterstock

Winterize Your Vehicle

Get your hybrid/electric car ready for winter driving the same way you’d winterize a non-hybrid car. Start with checking the condition of things like:

Anti-freeze: With an inexpensive tester, you can test its level of freeze protectant. (Learn more about how to test coolant.)

Oil and filter: Your oil could thicken during winter, so stay on top of regular oil changes.

Tire pressure: Check your tire pressure frequently. Your tires may get low before your indicator light gives a warning.

Engine performance: Have your car serviced before fall ends. Make sure spark plugs and ignition wires are cleaned or replaced. If your area gets really cold, you might want to consider keeping an engine block warmer on hand. Just be sure you’ve purchased a model that’s indicated for your vehicle type.

Photo: Dreamnikon/Shutterstock

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Insulate Your Grill

In extremely cold temps, some green vehicle owners recommend “blocking” the front grill of a hybrid. Cut sections of foam pipe insulation and fit the pieces into the grill to help preserve fuel economy. You may even be able to use old pool noodles instead of buying new pipe insulation. Depending on the make and model of your vehicle, and the degree of cold you experience, you may want to block both the top and bottom grill. Blocking is not recommended for warm weather driving.

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shutterstock_584388298 interior backseat of carBonvit/Shutterstock

Lighten Up!


If you’re not driving a hybrid/electric SUV, you probably have front wheel drive on your hybrid sedan. That’s a bonus, especially in winter. However, you’ll lose the benefit of front wheel drive if you’re carrying too much weight in your vehicle. So, lose those unnecessary items. Instead, build a simple shelf in your garage to store them. Otherwise, you’re looking at a rough slog through the muck. In snowy or icy conditions, the extra weight means you’re closer to the ground. So, lighten your load in cold weather.

Photo: Bonvit/Shutterstock

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shutterstock_407543500 hybrid car Maziarz/Shutterstock

Snow Tires


You might think, ‘why would I need snow tires? Aren’t my regular tires enough?’ The answer is no. Not in snowy, icy conditions. If you live in a climate that gets a notable amount of the wet stuff, snow tires are worth the investment. You’ll find the tires offer better control and handling to get you through the winter weather. Don’t forget to check your tire depth tread, throughout the season.

Photo: Maziarz/Shutterstock

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Winter driving

Keep a Clean Car


The winter weather is no friend to your hybrid/electric car. Specifically, the ice and snow build up in your undercarriage. Green car owners recommend routinely washing your car in winter. In addition to an overall good appearance, you can remove the unwanted ice and snow that could cause a reduction in fuel economy. Use these tips to give your vehicle a thorough winter examination.

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Defrost Your Windows


In addition to using some of your hybrid/electric’s battery power for heating your cabin and/or vehicle seats on those cold winter days you’ll also want to run your defroster. To preserve as much battery power as possible, make sure you have quality windshield wipers to brush away heavy snow. Then, only run the defroster long enough to begin melting what’s left. From there, let your warm cabin finish the job.

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precon1-1024x577 preconditioning car

Warm the Interior


Hybrid/electric cars need attention in winter, too. While plugged in, warm the interior of your car. Called “preconditioning,” this unique green car feature heats (or cools) the cabin automatically prior to departure. The owner simply programs the day, time and temperature; the car does the rest. You’ll thank yourself for a warm car that didn’t sacrifice battery power. However, if your car starts to blow cold air, it may be time to check and repair parts or get it serviced.

Photo: Courtesy of BMWBlog

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FH07MAY_478_13_022 man sweating in carFamily Handyman

Heat From the Bottom Up


Consider heating your car seats first in winter, instead of the cabin. You’ll want to keep the car plugged in, but a warm back and backside may be the answer if you’re in a hurry and don’t have time to wait for the cabin preconditioning to take effect. If your car isn’t as warm as you’d like, be sure to check the cabin air filter to improve your heat flow.

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shutterstock_525884776 hybrid electric car charging stationAlexfan32/Shutterstock

Improve Your Fuel Economy


The biggest threat to your hybrid/electric vehicle’s fuel economy is the cold winter weather. If you don’t take the time to warm your vehicle’s engine before driving off, experts believe your fuel economy could be up to three times less than it would be in warmer weather. In addition, you should take full advantage of your instruments. Watch your speedometer. You could save money by driving a little slower. And keep an eye on your car’s thermometer to help keep your fuel consumption low.

Photo: Alexfan32/Shutterstock

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shutterstock_395339038 charging hybrid electric carElena Elisseeva/Shutterstock

Stay Plugged In


Your battery is the best feature on your hybrid/electric car, so take care of it, even in winter. Keep your car plugged at all times, no matter if your charge is at 100% or near zero. That way when you’re ready to go, you’re guaranteed to go the distance before you need to buy fuel. Follow these handy tips for more nips and tucks to keep your car ready for winter.

Photo: Elena Elisseeva/Shutterstock