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Get Your Car Heating System Ready for Winter in 3 Easy Steps

This parked car covered in snow needs a functional car heating system to defrost and hit the road.

Is your car heating system ready to deal with chilly winter temperatures? While it’s easy to forget about your heater throughout the summer months, you can’t just assume that it will be ready to leap into action once fall starts to give way to colder weather.

It’s relatively quick and easy to check whether you’ll need to make any repairs or do any maintenance on the system prior to the change in seasons. Here’s a look at three steps to prep your car’s heating system for the winter.

1. Check Your Cooling System

Over time, the additives in your vehicle’s antifreeze start to wear out, making it more difficult for it to properly regulate the temperature inside your engine, as well as resist freezing-cold temperatures. Why is this important when talking about a car heating system? The heater in your vehicle relies on the circulation of warm antifreeze prior to it cooling down in the radiator in order to keep the cabin toasty. If the cooling system isn’t up to the task, then your vents won’t blow warm air.

Other issues that can affect your car’s heater include a thermostat that is stuck and debris in the cooling system clogging the heater core. Hoses that are old and dried out could also potentially start to leak in colder weather as they shrink away from their hard points. Check that your vehicle’s cooling system is in good shape before the winter by testing the antifreeze and doing a pressure test to make sure everything is flowing smoothly and no leaks are detected.

2. Listen for Blower Noise

Car in winter with snow

A car heating system relies on a blower to send warm air into the passenger compartment. Over time, the electric blower motor can wear out, resulting in weak air flow — or sometimes none at all. When fall arrives, drive around with your blower motor running at several different speeds, from low to high, and listen for any unusual noises that could indicate a problem. Screeching, clunking or metal-on-metal sounds are all indications that the motor might have to be replaced.

3. Make Sure Your Air Conditioner Is Working

Why would you need air conditioning in the winter? It might surprise you to know that a car heating system uses the air conditioner to help dry out moist air, which rapidly increases the speed at which you can defrost your windshield and side windows. Although it’s not absolutely necessary to keep you warm in cold weather, a functioning air conditioning unit will make dealing with winter that much easier.

It’s always a good idea to deal with winter maintenance before the snow falls and the mercury drops. Running through these basic checks in the fall will help you drive through the winter months with peace of mind — and a warm cabin.

Check out all the heating & cooling systems parts available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on your car heating system, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photo courtesy of Flickr.

Benjamin Hunting View All

Having been bitten by the car bug at a young age, I spent my formative years surrounded by Studebakers at car shows across Quebec and the northeastern United States. Over ten years of racing, restoring, and obsessing over automobiles lead me to balance science writing and automotive journalism full time.  I currently contribute as an editor to several online and print automotive publications, and I also write and consult for the pharmaceutical and medical device industry.

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