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Keeping Your Car in Tip-Top Shape for Winter

Buzzle Staff
Now that the cold weather has arrived with a vengeance, it's more important than ever to be sure your car is prepared for the onslaught of winter. Here are some tips to help you.
The holiday season usually marks the beginning of snow, sleet, ice, and dangerous driving conditions for many parts of the country. This is the time of year to take care of some basic maintenance chores for your car, and bone up on winter driving rules, to make sure you stay safe on the road.

Check Your Tires

A worn tire with little or no tread on a rain-slicked road is a recipe for disaster. Hydroplaning on a wet surface causes the driver to lose control, which could result in a simple fender-bender or a serious wreck.
To check your tire's tread, experts suggest slipping a penny inside one of the treads in the center of the tire. If you can see the top of Lincoln's head, then it's time to get new tires. Adequately inflated tires with proper tread provide more traction on slippery roads.

Check Your Wiper Blades

The summer heat beating down on your windshield can deteriorate the rubber blades of your windshield wipers.
When cold air arrives, the blades may start to crack. If you notice that the blades are streaking when it rains, then it's time to have them replaced. Replace your windshield wiper fluid with a wintertime mixture that can help melt ice.

Service the Radiator System

Be sure your radiator and heating systems are working properly. You can check the antifreeze level yourself with an antifreeze tester.

Keep Your Gas Tank Full

Driving on fumes is risky even in the heat of summer, but it's particularly dangerous in cold weather. To help avoid ice in the gas tank and fuel lines, keep your gas tank at least half full throughout the winter.

Prepare for an Emergency

Every car should have some basic emergency supplies such as road maps, a spare tire, a flashlight and extra batteries, and booster cables. But in the winter you should put together an emergency kit containing items you may need should your car end up in a ditch in bad weather and you have to wait for help to arrive.
This emergency kit can contain items such as blankets, a first aid kit, a windshield scraper, a collapsible shovel, a tool kit for minor repairs, a container of water, a can of compressed air with sealant (for emergency tire repairs), and a bag of sand or cat litter to pour on ice for added traction.

Learn About Driving in Winter Weather

No matter where you live, icy roads are always a possibility. Even just a slight bit of moisture on the road, when combined with very low temperatures, can result in slippery roadways, especially on bridges and overpasses.
Here are some driving tips that may save your life:
  • Improve visibility before you leave home by clearing all ice and snow from your car.
  • Use your low beam headlights when driving in a rain or snow storm, for improved visibility.
  • When you approach a patch of ice on the road, apply the brakes during your approach, not when you reach the ice.
  • Move, turn, and brake slowly. Sudden changes and fast movements make it harder to maintain control.
  • Always leave plenty of room between your car and the car ahead of you.
  • Slow down. Posted speed limits are for ideal road conditions, not for bad weather.
Preparing your car and yourself for driving in winter weather is not difficult, and it may mean the difference between leaving home and arriving at your destination safe and sound, or leaving home and ending up in the hospital or worse. Take the time to plan ahead so you can enjoy a safe and happy winter.