Snow in your eyes? Winterize.

Whether it’s been freezing where you are for some time now or you live in some unholy latitude you aren’t sure winter will ever touch again, these are five things you need to do to attend to your vehicle’s wintertime needs.

  1. Check all of your vehicle’s fluids. Make sure you have the appropriate ratio of water to antifreeze in your coolant system (about 1:1). Look into using lower viscosity engine oil, as it will lubricate better than higher viscosity oil in the cold, but to get the correct type of cold weather oil for your vehicle, check your owner’s manual. Also, leaving your gas tank on the emptier side invites water vapor to condense in the tank and freeze in the fuel lines, which you don’t want, so try to avoid driving with a near-empty tank.
  2. Make sure your tires are in the best shape possible. Especially if you live in an area where icy roads are the norm, you should consider buying winter tires or using snow chains to help deal with subpar driving conditions. Make sure your tires have the rated air pressure, and enough tread depth for tricky road conditions. Keep a spare tire on hand, and the tools and knowledge of how to put it on.
  3. Make sure your car can take the heat – err…cold. The outside of your car suffers the strain of winter too. Making sure that your car is clean and protected before things get really frigid goes a long way to preserve the paint job and keep ice and snow from sticking to the vehicle, especially if you apply a coat of car wax. Snow and ice mixed with dirt and other particles on the outside of your car can cause damage if left unchecked.
  4. Check the electrical systems of your car. Shorter daylight hours mean more headlight usage, and cold weather means heater fans and motors cranking. Given those two factors, among others, the battery usage of your vehicle is going to go up significantly, so make sure your battery has the juice it will need beforehand. Go get your battery tested (often free at auto parts stores), and if it needs replacement, be smart and do it while it’s still convenient to do so.
  5. Keep an emergency kit. Sometimes things happen despite every precaution, so keep an emergency kit in your car. Start with jumper cables, a flashlight, a knife, and a multi-tool and build outward from there. On the human care side of things you should include water, non-perishable food and an emergency first aid kit. Since you cant know what might go wrong and how far from help you might be, make sure you can sufficiently help yourself while you wait for help to arrive.
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