Get your vehicle ready for winter

If your winter plans include snow, ice and bitter cold, winterizing your vehicle can save time, money and stress.

Step 1: Cold weather thickens engine oil, making it difficult to properly lubricate the vehicle’s motor. Check the owner’s manual to see whether a lower-viscosity oil is recommended during winter months. If so, drain the oil and replace it with a lighter weight motor oil.

Step 2: Check the air pressure in each tire. For every 10-degree drop in temperature, tires lose 1 psi of pressure. Maintaining proper air pressure optimizes tire traction and decreases wear and tear on the tire’s treads.

Step 3: Replace worn windshield wiper blades with heavy-duty blades rated for snow and ice.

Step 4: Fill the windshield washer fluid reservoir with de-icing or low-temperature washer fluid. Choose a fluid labeled for subzero temperatures to improve visibility on icy cold days.

Step 5: Check the battery connections and clean away any corrosion with baking soda and a tooth brush. If the battery is more than 3 years old, have a mechanic load test it to determine whether the battery should be replaced.

Step 6: Use a bulb-type antifreeze tester to check the coolant mixture in the radiator. A proper 50/50 water and antifreeze mix should protect the engine from freezing at temperatures as low as minus 40.

Step 7: Check belts and hoses for cracks and wear spots. Tighten up any loose hose clamps and replace any belt or hose that looks worn or damaged.

Step 8: Outfit the vehicle with a set of jumper cables, a blanket, a good snowbrush with an ice scraper, gloves, a flashlight, a folding shovel and a tool box. Add a 12v air compressor for inflating tires, a tow rope and a first aid kit for additional safety. A bag of sand and a can of spray de-icer could come in handy, too.

Step 9: Keep the gas tank at least half full throughout the winter months to reduce the chance of a gas-line freeze. Adding an occasional bottle of gas-line antifreeze, such as Heet, will help, too.

Step 10: Stay home when bad weather is predicted, but if you must leave, drive slowly, pump your brakes when stopping, and, if you begin to slide, turn the wheel into the slide to straighten up the vehicle.

By Linda Cottin

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