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7 Steps to Conquer Winter Driving

As winter begins to move in, road conditions change dramatically. Before the first snowy winter storms arrive, drivers must prepare their vehicles properly to avoid weather-related emergencies and accidents. Winterizing a car requires more than installing a set of snow tires. Drivers must complete a few other crucial tasks, including packing an emergency kit and ensuring that the car's windshield wipers are performing correctly.

1. Tire Care

Snow tiresare a necessity in snowy climates. However, even drivers who live with mild winter weather can still benefit from a set of snow tires; an unexpected blizzard can foul the roads in cities that aren't prepared to deal with heavy snows. Tire manufacturers offer a number of different options for snow tires. Studded tires, for example, can provide excellent traction in certain conditions. Studless snow tires also offer superior winter performance across a wide range of road conditions. Drivers who continue using their regular all-season tires should check the condition of their car's tires; worn-out tires increase the chance of an accident in icy or snowy conditions. Finally, drivers should check the pressure in each tire, especially just before heading out on a long drive; winter temperatures can cause the air pressure in tires to drop.

2. Check Hoses and Belts

Cold temperatures are not kind to many critical engine parts. Belts and hoses are particularly prone to damage from frigid air; cooler temperatures can make these components brittle, increasing the chance of a catastrophic failure. At the beginning of winter, drivers should give their vehicles' belts and hoses a thorough inspection. In particularly cold areas, drivers may want to check on their belts and hoses throughout the winter season.

3. Stock the Car

Emergencies can strike at any time, especially during the winter. Drivers can prepare for a variety of winter-related emergencies by packing their carwith useful items. Blankets and hand warmers will ensure that drivers stay warm if they get stranded. Food and water will provide necessary energy and sustenance. Automotive tools, including jumper cables and a tire changing kit, are also a necessary part of any emergency vehicle kit. Drivers can pack their items in a plastic bin to keep everything within easy reach. Finally, drivers should always remember to take their cellphones with them so that they can get in touch with family or emergency services.

4. Check the Vehicle's Four-Wheel-Drive System

Some SUV owners, especially city dwellers, rarely use the four-wheel-drive system in their car. Checking up on the four-wheel-drive system is a good step to take before the snow begins to fall. Vehicle owners should read their vehicles' manuals to learn how to properly care for and engage the four-wheel-drive system. However, drivers should realize that having a four-wheel-drive system doesn't mean that they can drive at their usual speeds during the winter. Although a four-wheel-drive system can help maintain traction in difficult conditions, drivers should still drive slower during storms.

5. Prepare the Car's Windshield

Poor visibility during a winter storm can increase the chance of an accident. Drivers should thoroughly clean their windshields as temperatures begin to drop. This is also a good time to check on the condition of the windshield wipers; cold temperatures can weaken the rubber portion of a vehicle's windshield wipers. Drivers who haven't replaced their wipers in over a year will likely need to find replacements. Finally, drivers should refill their wiper fluid with a cold-temperature solution.

6. Examine Antifreeze Levels

Antifreeze can keep a car's engine from freezing in all but the harshest temperatures. Selecting the right mixture of water and antifreeze is critical to the health of the car's engine; adding too little or too much antifreeze can cause the engine to freeze. Drivers can pick up an antifreeze tester at an automotive store to check on their vehicle's antifreeze levels. In most climates, drivers should aim for a 50-50 blend between water and antifreeze, but local conditions might necessitate a different mixture.

7. Examine the Car's Battery

Batteries are more likely to fail in the winter, potentially leaving drivers stranded for hours Checking on the status of the car's battery is a critical part of winterizing a vehicle. Drivers can begin with a visual inspection, looking for any signs of corrosion or damage. Vehicle owners should also check the fluid levels in their batteries at the beginning of the winter season. Older batteries should be checked by a mechanic to see how well the battery holds a charge. Batteries that are older than five years may need to be replaced. Winter presents drivers with a number of challenging conditions, from blinding snowstorms to extremely low temperatures. Unprepared drivers will find winter driving to be hazardous and difficult. Drivers must winterize their vehicles ahead of time to avoid accidents and emergency situations.