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11/15/11: In order to stay safe and keep your vehicle in tip-top shape this winter, there are a few steps you need to take to make sure everything is running smoothly. Cold temperatures and icy conditions can cause problems for anyone, but if you're prepared you'll have a much better chance of getting through this season without a hitch. Here are some tips to keep in mind, courtesy of MSNBC and DMV.org.
1. Get an oil change. Oil thickens as it gets colder, so it's important to make sure that your car has the right kind of oil for winter. If your oil gets too thick, it won't do its job of lubricating your engine. You want to switch to a thinner, less viscous oil, so consult your owner's manual to see what the manufacturer recommends for your vehicle in different climates.
2. Check your engine coolant. It keeps your engine from overheating and protects your engine from damaging corrosion. Coolant with ethylene glycol will help protect your engine during the harsh winter months, so check your owner's manual or ask your technician to tell you the ratio of coolant to water you need. Most vehicles need 60 percent coolant to 40 percent water in the winter. This will prevent the mixture from freezing even at really cold temperatures.
3. Maximize your visibility. Most windshield wipers need replacing every year, so you may want to think about getting a new pair if you're past due. You should also fill your windshield washer reservoir up with windshield washer fluid - water won't work in the winter since it freezes. A fluid with an antifreeze solution would be best. It would also help to equip your car with an ice scraper and a shovel, in case you need to dig yourself out of the snow or clear the windows of ice. Be sure your defroster and heater are working properly as well so the windshield will be kept clear in all conditions.
4. Check your battery. Your vehicle's battery capacity is reduced in cold weather, so look over the cables for any cracks or breaks. There should be no loose connections and your battery fluid should be full. If it's not, refill it with distilled water. If your battery is more than three years old, it's a good idea to have someone check to see its ability to hold a charge. The last thing you want is for your battery to not start when it's freezing out.
5. Look over the belts and hoses. Cold weather can damage these, so make sure there is no wear and tear before the colder temperatures set in.
6. Get snow tires. These can give you a big advantage when you're driving in the snow, and you won't have to worry as much about sliding around on the ice. Switch all four, or consider getting all-season tires.
7. Check the tire pressure. Properly inflated tires will give you the traction you need, which is important in the winter when there's less traction on the road. Check your vehicle's owner manual to see what level your tires should be at.
8. Ensure that your four-wheel-drive is working. If you have four-wheel-drive, it's important to make sure everything is working properly before winter begins. Make sure the system engages and disengages easily and that everyone who drives your vehicle knows how to activate it.
9. Prepare for frozen locks. Sometimes the locks on your vehicle will freeze if it's cold enough, and this could damage your key and lock you out. Many stores sell glycerine for de-icing, and if you're at home you could just use warm water. It's important to keep it in a good place, as it won't do you any good if you leave it in the glove compartment or the trunk.
10. Make yourself an emergency kit. Despite all your preparations, sometimes things just don't go as planned. That's why it's important to have all of the necessary equipment with you just in case. In your trunk, you should keep: blankets, jumper cables, extra winter gear, water and food, flares, a radio, a flashlight, a tool kit, a first-aid kit and a bag of sand (it can help provide traction if you ever get stuck in the snow).
As long as you get everything checked out beforehand and are prepared in case of an emergency, you and your vehicle should be just fine this winter. Remember that if you need to pick up any parts or supplies, an Advance Auto Parts promotion code can get you deals on everything you need!
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