There’s no official way to “winterize” your Volvo XC90. Aside from changing the temperature selector knobs and turning on your heated seats (which I do even in fall and spring), the XC90 is pretty much good-to-go when it comes to handling the winter weather (aside from Winter tires, that is, but that will be for another post). Beyond that, there are some things you may want to do to make your winter driving experience more safe and enjoyable for you – and for your XC90.
For me, winterizing the XC90 takes on a different meaning. It doesn’t necessarily mean that I prepare it for Winter driving. Because I live in Canada, I prepare my XC90 for a near-complete loss of quality time. Because it’s so cold here in winter, and because I don’t have a garage, I can’t just walk outside and perform a brake job, wash and wax the exterior or perform an oil change whenever I want. So, there’s a small list of things that I like to do in the fall weather to ensure the XC90 is as maintenance-free as possible until spring.
Perform One Last Oil Change For The Year
My oil change interval will easily get me from late-Fall into Spring, meaning my back will never have to make contact with the icy cold tundra that is my driveway in Winter. Changing the oil before the cold weather gives me one last look under the car to check for any leaks or to see the progression of any oil seepage from my charge air cooler/ETM pipe connection. For some XC90 owners, this is also a time where they change the viscosity of their oil to something a little lighter than 5W30 because they believe the cold temperatures of Winter demand an oil with a bit less viscosity. I’m not quite in that camp yet. I also don’t have a garage which is why I change the oil on my XC90 before it gets cold.
Perform One Last Wash and Wax
Winter is tough on cars in Canada. Salt, dirt, acid-snow sitting on the roof of your XC90 overnight, or over the weekend…it all adds up and can take a toll on the finish of your car. That’s why I always try to perform one final wash and wax before Winter. I know the shine of the wax won’t last long, but I also know that it’s there – and will stand up to the brutality that is Canadian Winter.
Condition The Leather Seats
The cold, dry winter air can be harsh on your leather seats, especially with the heating and cooling cycles that come with the use of heated seats. To try and keep the leather seats in my XC90 from drying and cracking any more than they already are, I give them one final treatment with leather cleaner and conditioner. For this, I don’t use the Volvo brand, although I’m sure it’s really good. I bought some from my local Canadian Tire and it works well, it’s easy to use and it smells really good.
Pro Tip: There’s no harm in treating the leather on your third row seats once a year, even if you rarely use them. Go ahead and do it. Plus, it’s a good opportunity to ensure your third row seats are operating correctly.
Clean the Insides of the Windows
I don’t know about you, but the inside of my windshield tends to get dirty fast. I’m sure it has something to do with the fact that my XC90 is heading into its 13th year. It also seems as though, the dirtier the inside of my windshield gets, the harder it is to see out when there is snow on the ground. So, I give my windshield (and every other window) a good cleaning on the inside for safety.
Pro Tip: To cut down on glare from snow on the ground, buy yourself a pair of polarized sunglasses for driving. They make a big difference in Winter and every other month for that matter. You can find them just about anywhere you can buy sunglasses, but make sure they say “polarized” on them…otherwise, they’re probably not.
Vacuum and Dust Your XC90 Interior
Winter invariably means more dirt in your Volvo (or whatever car you may drive). To me, it just make sense to start this season as dust-free and dirt-free as possible inside the XC90. So I take out all the floor mats, clean them with soap and water and while they’re drying, I go crazy, vacuuming the interior. That includes using my duster attachment to clean all vents as well as possible and ensure the ECM air intake is clean and free of any dust that may be blocking airflow.
Pro Tip: This is an ideal time for you to remove and inspect your cabin air filter if you haven’t done this in some time. I know people who have vacuumed them if they aren’t too dirty and the replaced them for the Winter.
Get Your Boots (Winter Tires) On
Unlike the rules of fashion, which dictate a date upon which you must stop wearing white, there is no such rule when it comes to putting snow tires on your car. However, there are a few things that may impact when that date is:
Where you keep your tires: If you’ve got your winter tires on dedicated rims, and you keep them in your garage, you can probably bide your time and put them on your XC90 as close to the first snowfall as you like. If the forecast calls for snow on Monday, you can put them on during your Saturday afternoon. Or Sunday. Or Monday morning before work. You get the idea. However, if you store your tires at a tire store, dealership or otherwise away from your house, you may need to ensure you have adequate time to retrieved the tires and put them on.
Likewise, if you keep your winter tires at the dealership, they likely store them off-site somewhere, and showing up unannounced the day before it’s supposed to snow will probably result in you not getting your snow tires on in-time. Consider your situation and plan accordingly.
Where you live: There are some places in Canada, and the rest of the world for that matter, that don’t get snow until later on in Winter. With Global Warming, your Farmer’s Almanac might not be as trustworthy, but you should know, generally, when you put your winter tires on. If you start to see more people with their Winter tires on, you may want to take that as a hint and go do the same.
Switch Washer Fluid
Not many people think of this one, but the washer fluid you use in Winter is important – especially if you live in a cold climate. In Summer, I tend to use a fluid that is made for that season – one that easily removes bug guts, and the like. Essentially it’s designed to wash the windshield. In Winter though, I’m looking for something that won’t freeze and will get the layer of winter schmutz* off my windshield while also melting any ice that my scraper might have missed.
*A technical term to describe a combination of dirt, salt, road grime.