While you may be ready to take on the harsh winter weather, your car may not. The key is to take preventative maintenance steps, according to John Paul, known as AAA’s "Car Doctor."
"A well-maintained car will perform in almost any circumstances and stand up to most weather conditions," Paul says. Unfortunately, most of us aren’t proficient in automobile maintenance checkups. So start your winterizing by having a professional check your spark plugs, filters and hoses.
"The main issue facing drivers with winter weather is that it usually makes a car harder to start," Paul says. To help prevent this, he suggests the following:
- If necessary, have your battery tested. The typical life is about 40 months, so if the battery is approaching three years old, have it checked before winter weather hits.
- Make sure you have the proper amount of antifreeze in your radiator.
- Visibility is crucial in winter weather, so check the heater and defroster before there’s an immediate need for defrosting.
- Check the windshield wiper blades and make sure they are working properly.
- Check headlights, taillights and brake lights, so other drivers can see you.
- Buy quality tires—snow tires if necessary—and then maintain them. Tire threads should be deep to provide greater traction. Also make sure your tires are properly inflated, as air inside a tire contracts in cooler temperatures, reducing pressure. A good rule of thumb is to check the pressure every week in colder weather.
- Have an emergency box in the trunk, stocked with a snow brush, scraper, kitty litter or salt, a flashlight, reflectors and flares. For your own comfort and convenience, pack an extra pair of winter clothes, an extra hat and a pair or two of gloves (one waterproof to wear outside, and one woolen for inside) if you travel in remote areas.