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January 2011
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Winter Car Care Tips
Simple checks and basic maintenance to help ensure a safe and happy winter driving season.

Winter might not mean snow and ice across the entire country, but the colder weather means itís time to take care of a few preventative and general maintenance items, so you can enjoy stress-free winter traveling.


Start by checking to make sure youíre riding on safe tires that offer enough tread to get through the season. Winter tires are recommended if the temperature is consistently below 40 degrees in your region at this time of year, even if you donít get much snow.


The experts at Road & Travel magazine provide a reminder that sometimes itís the little things that can make the difference between smooth sailing and frustration. Your vehicleís fluids are a perfect example. The coolant in your radiator may not offer the same level of protection in the winter as it does in the summer, depending upon its ratio of water to antifreeze. A simple test, which can be performed by your mechanic, can help you determine whether you need to add additional coolant to your automobile to prevent possible engine freezing and damage at sub-zero temperatures. 


The same precaution should be applied to your windshield washer fluid, as summer formulations donít always offer enough alcohol content to prevent them from turning into a solid block of ice in your reservoir tank Ė especially at night when the weather is at its coolest. Winter washer fluid formulations are just as inexpensive as their summer equivalents, and make for cheap insurance during an unexpected cold snap.


If you live in a very cold area of the country, there is one more fluid you might want to consider protecting during the winter months Ė the gasoline in your carís tank. In extreme temperatures, moisture in the fuel tank and in your vehicleís fuel lines could freeze and make your car difficult to start. Keeping your tank full helps prevent moisture accumulation and the addition of a small amount of inexpensive fuel-line antifreeze from time to time can also take moisture out of the picture. 


It is a good idea to have the dealership verify that your engine hoses and belts are in good shape when the seasons change, as plastic and rubber tend to become more brittle when exposed to low temperatures, increasing the chances that they might fail. Streaky windshield wipers should be replaced, as dealing with snow and ice is harder on wipers than just cleaning off rain and water. Finally, itís worth adding a winter emergency kit to your trunk. A simple bag packed with a blanket, hand warmers, a small shovel, extra washer fluid, a combination scraper/snowbrush, snacks and extra water can help make getting stuck in a snow bank or buried during a sudden storm that much easier to deal with. An extra pair of gloves, boots and a winter hat never hurts either, as keeping warm and dry is a big part of fighting off the dangers of the winter cold.


Your dealership can help you inspect your car and put together a checklist of any issues that should be addressed. Their expert technicians will make sure that your car wonít hit you with any unexpected surprises halfway through the season, keeping you motoring safely until the spring thaw.


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