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Getting your car ready for winter driving

As the seasons change and we get closer to winter you need to take a few minutes to make sure your car is as ready as you are. Here are some car care tips to make sure you keep your engine running and performing at its peak as the temperatures start to drop. It's just one more way for you to ensure that you and your family are protected from old man winter as the seasons change.

Keep the ''three Ps'' in mind - Prepare for the change in seasons by performing regular maintenance checks. Protect yourself by making sure everyone is buckled up and your children in the correct child safety seats. Prevent yourself against accidents by slowing down, reduce the number of distractions and most of all slow down and allow yourself some extra time.

Check your coolant - Have your radiator coolant checked for proper consistency and use the coolant type recommended by the vehicle manufacture. Don't forget to have your system checked by a certified technician, at least every couple of years.

Keep fluids flowing - Check your vehicle owner's manual and use the oil rated for winter use by the manufacturer. Don't forget your wiper-washer fluid, be sure to keep your reservoir full of a fluid (you would be surprised how fast it disappears) and make sure your transmission fluid is clean.

How well can you see and be seen - You should replace your windshield wipers at least once per year, especially for night driving and encounters with rain, sleet and snow and don't forget the back windshield wiper! Be sure to check all belts and hoses part as part of your regular maintenance program, cracked; frayed or worn rubber may not make it through the winter.

Inspect your tires - You need to make sure that you are getting as much traction as your tires can deliver. Driving in winter conditions on icy, slushy or snowy roads requires your undivided attention and not worrying about your tires. Check tire pressure regularly and consider replacing them if you see worn tread or the sidewall damage, better yet, have your technician install winter tires for added peace of mind.

Hard starting on those cold mornings - Cold conditions require more power from your battery, check to make sure it is at peak performance. Batteries can lose performance as the temperature drops; so when you expect and need more cranking power, you could have less available.

Be ready for the unexpected - Do you have these must have items in your car? Jumper cables, flashlight, emergency flashers or flares, small shovel, bag of sand or traction material, blanket, extra winter clothing and tire cables or chains if you don't have winter tires. You might want to think about adding a pre-package emergency kit that comes with a little of everything.

Keep the engine running - You should try to maintain a full tank of gas, which will help keep the gas lines from freezing. Don't forget, if you are stranded this winter, your engine is your only source of heat.

What's behind you - Clean the snow off your side mirrors every time you get in your car. Make sure your rear window defroster is working properly, if some of the heat producing elements don't work, they can be repaired to ensure you have clear visibility through your rear window.

For those long trips - Allow extra time; check the weather and road conditions before you leave the house. Take a good look at the map and familiarize yourself with the directions and let someone else know your planned route and estimated time of arrival.

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