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Winter Car Care Tips

Before the first frost hits, there are little things you can do to make sure your car is in tip-top shape. Besides making sure you have a scraper or two in the garage, there are several other things that will keep your car running smoothly all winter long. What may prove to be a slight irritation in the hot months of summer can create a world of trouble in the ice and snow.

Don't put yourself at risk of becoming stranded, or worse. Below are just a few of the simple things you can do at home to improve your safety. And, remember: Regularly service your car to avoid any major mishaps on the road.

Carry a survival kit.

Every driver should have a survival kit in his or her car. The snow and ice pose a greater danger and, even though no one wants to think of the worst-case scenario, you want to be prepared in case you do become stranded. Keep in mind that the more remote the roads you frequent are, the more items you will want.

Also, avoid placing the kit in the trunk. You want to ensure that the survival kit is in a glove compartment or another area that the driver can easily reach. While you certainly should add to our list, some basic items you should always have include:

  • A shiny space blanket
  • Whistle
  • Plumber's candle and lighter
  • Plastic bag (used for gathering snow and water)
  • Single edged razor (used to cut upholstery for insulation)
  • Empty metal soup can (for melting snow with candle)

Check tire pressure.

There is a reason most people end up heading to the repair shop for new tires when the weather turns cold. Tires lose a pound of pressure for every drop of 10 degrees in temperature. This poses a huge threat, as underinflated tires don't “bite” the road through the snow. What ensues is similar to hydroplaning on water. Avoid this danger and be sure to check all your tires pressure periodically as the temperatures continue to drop.

Wax the lights.

Yes, this is a small detail; however, you want full visibility during the dreary winter days. Build-up on your headlamps decreases your safety—a risk not worth taking. To remove build up, rub car wax on the clean lights, and then buff off. The buffed surface will less likely have ice building up on the lights.

Test your battery.

There is no worse feeling then hopping in your car only to hear the silence of a dead battery. Since winter puts more stress on your car's battery, it is a good idea to get it checked, especially if you park outdoors. Most repair shops and auto part stores charge little to nothing to test your battery, plus it helps to know if your battery life is headed for the grave, ahead of time. That way you can arrange to replace it around your schedule and work with the shop of your choosing. Otherwise, you are at the mercy of whichever shop your dead car is towed to, which can prove to be quite the inconvenience.

Replace your wiper blades.

While fog and rain cut down on your visibility, the added snow, sleet, ice, and waning summer sun add to the factors that make it hard to see in the winter. Wiper blades are usually good for about a year, and you should always make sure you have sufficient, working blades for the upcoming snow and ice. You want to ensure that you have optimal visibility at all times.

When you park your car, make sure to run the wipers off. Leaving them on may cause the wiper's motor to burn out, because they have to fight against frozen wipers the next time you start your car. Additionally, some people find it easier to scrape the windshield if they pop the wipers up.

Remove fallen leaves and twigs.

As fall transitions into winter, chances are plenty of fallen leaves and twigs still hang around the driveway and lawn. While most people do rake leaves from their lawn, most people overlook the importance of removing them from their vehicle. Just like the build-up of leaves can ruin your home's gutters, accumulation of debris can cause major issues within your vehicle.

Leaves and twigs can clog the areas of your car where water is supposed to flow out. This can create leaks and corrosion, and happens in areas such as the air plenum near the windshield and in sunroofs. Make sure to remove all organic matter and keep those passageways clear for water to drain.

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