Is Your Car Winter-Ready? Follow this Checklist

Be prepared for the rigors of winter driving with these simple tips.

There’s more to staying safe in winter than just driving carefully. Here are some tips for getting your car ready for the cold.

1. Get your battery tested

On winter’s coldest mornings, you’ll need your car’s battery to be fully charged and in good condition to start the engine. AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities can test and replace weak batteries. If you do encounter a battery problem at home or on the road, AAA Members can request a visit from roadside assistance for AAA Mobile Battery Service—a technician will test your battery and replace it onsite, if necessary.

2. Examine antifreeze levels

Check the coolant in the overflow tank when the engine is cold and turned off. If the level is low, add a 50/50 solution of coolant and water to maintain the necessary antifreeze capability. Test the antifreeze protection level annually with an inexpensive tester available at most auto parts stores—including NAPA Auto Parts, where AAA Members save 10 percent on most parts and accessories.

3. Add repellent to your windshield

Scraping ice-covered windows can be easier than you think. Apply a water repellent such as Rain-X to all windows when they’re clean and dry. When you scrape off the ice this winter, it will be much easier. Never pour hot water on icy windows, as the fast temperature change could cause them to crack.

4. Check your tire pressure

Check the inflation pressures of all four tires and the spare more frequently in winter. As temperatures drop, so will tire pressures—typically by 1 PSI (pounds per square inch) for every 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Proper tire pressure levels can be found in the owner’s manual or on a sticker typically located on the driver’s door jamb (note that the PSI molded on a tire sidewall is its maximum PSI). Examine tires for tread depth, uneven wearing and cupping. Tires with less than 4/32” of tread will have reduced traction in wet and snowy conditions. In extreme climates, a set of winter snow tires or chains may be a wise investment.

5. Clean your headlights

Cloudy headlights reduce your ability to see and be seen at night, especially in snow and fog. Improve visibility with a headlight restoration kit, which removes the haze from headlight covers. These kits are available at most auto part stores.

6. Let a professional look at your brakes

Car brakes don’t always give a warning when they’re worn low or experiencing other problems, and you don’t want to discover there’s an issue with them on an icy road. Have them checked before winter arrives.

7. Prepare an emergency kit

Always keep an emergency kit equipped for winter weather handy. The kit should include:

  • Bag of abrasive material (sand, salt, cat litter) or traction mats
  • Ice scraper with brush
  • Jumper cables
  • Gloves, hats and blankets—enough for everyone who may ride in your car
  • First-aid kit
  • Snow shovel
  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • Window washer solvent
  • Cloth or roll of paper towels
  • Warning devices (flares or triangles)
  • Drinking water
  • Non-perishable snacks (energy or granola bars)
  • Extra clothes
  • Basic toolkit (screwdrivers, pliers, adjustable wrench)
  • Mobile phone preprogrammed with important numbers, including family and AAA for roadside assistance, plus a car charger compatible with that phone

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