Snowy mountains

How can you prepare your car for winter driving?

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My family and I are going to head up to the mountains this year, which means driving in snow and ice. Can you give me some tips on getting my car ready for winter conditions?

  1. Snowy mountains
    Winter is upon us, and for many regions of the country that means ice, snow — and of course, the joy of driving in both. Here are a few tips to keep you safe this season behind the wheel.

    Before you drive

    Safe winter driving starts before you ever leave the driveway.

    • Check your tires. Before winter rolls around, take a look at your tires. Make sure they have enough tread on them for winter driving, and replace them if they don’t. If you live in an area that sees a lot of snow, or drive a performance car with “summer” tires, consider purchasing a second set of wheels with snow tires. If you have snow tires, make sure they are properly inflated and not dry rotted before putting them on.
    • Replace your windshield wipers. I replace mine every year in the fall. Wipers are cheap — you don’t have to buy the fancy $30 a piece ones. Just go one level up from the cheapest and swap them before the snow starts falling. If you live where it snows heavily and often, consider using a set of winter blades — these seal the spring of the wiper in a rubber boot to keep it from freezing, clogging, and generally binding up.
    • Top off your car’s fluids. Make sure everything is at the proper level. Oil, antifreeze, and washer fluid — and use a good freeze-resistant washer fluid.
    • Have your battery tested. You can go to any major auto parts store and have your battery tested for free. If it shows signs of going bad, replace it before the weather turns for the worse. Extreme cold (and extreme heat) put tremendous demands on your car’s battery.

    Also, make sure you have the following items in your vehicle somewhere during the winter:

    • Ice scraper with a brush on one end. This is self-explanatory, I hope.
    • Shovel. To dig yourself out if you get stuck. A compact, folding shovel is perfect.
    • Small bag of cat litter. Traction material. Do not use the clumping kind for this.
    • Flashlight and extra batteries. You can’t dig yourself out if you can’t see.
    • Jumper cables. Just in case you forgot to get your battery tested — or neglected to turn off your lights.
    • First aid kit. This is a good idea to have in the car year-’round anyway.
    • High energy, non-perishable food. A couple candy or protein bars in case you get stuck.
    • Tire chains. Some areas require them — check your local laws. See more thoughts in this article.

    No matter where you live with snow and ice, the state of Washington has some more helpful winter tips to get prepared — check out their takewinterbystorm.org site.

    Of course, being prepared is only half the battle. Get more advice on how to drive in snowy and icy weather here!

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