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Like it or not, cold weather is coming, and your vehicle needs to be ready for it. When conditions turn nasty, your safety can depend on being properly prepared for winter weather. Getting everything done on your car in advance helps ensure that an unexpected cold snap or snowstorm won’t leave you stranded.

Winter Tires

They’re not just for snow. Winter tires use a softer rubber compound that helps them grip cold or icy pavement, and they do a better job than all-season tires any time the temperature drops below 7C. Their more aggressive tread also channels away slush and snow to help prevent sliding.

Wiper Blades

Streaks on your windshield can obstruct your vision, especially when you’re driving into the glare of winter sunshine. Replace your blades any time they’re cracked or torn, if they don’t clear the glass completely, or if they bump or chatter. The rubber eventually gets hard from exposure to sun and weather, and it’s reasonable to have to change your blades at least twice a year. Remember to change the rear wiper blade on SUVs and hatchbacks, too.

Battery

It’s tougher for the battery to start the engine in cold weather, and one that did its job in the summer might not get you through the winter, especially if it’s several years old. A service technician will test your battery to see if it can handle the job, make sure the cables are in good shape and firmly attached, and ensure that there’s no corrosion on the terminals. If the battery’s marginal, replace it now so it doesn’t leave you stranded.

Emergency Kit 

It can be a while before help arrives in a bad snowstorm. Your emergency kit should include a blanket, candles, matches, energy snacks, and a folding shovel. Women who wear heels should pack a pair of flat-soled boots, too.

Winter Washer Fluid

 Winter-specific fluid resists freezing and is formulated to clean away winter grime such as road salt. Always carry a spare jug so you don’t run out. Never use plain water, which will freeze and damage the washer pump.

Coolant

Have your coolant tested to be sure it can handle cold temperatures. Follow your vehicle’s maintenance schedule, and when it’s recommended, have the cooling system flushed and filled with new fluid. Coolant gradually deteriorates, and when it does, it can’t adequately protect your engine and cooling system. This includes the heater core, and if this component gets clogged with corrosion, it’s an extremely expensive job to replace it.

Oil Change 

It’s essential that oil flows quickly through your engine when you start it, to prevent wear and damage, but oil that isn’t formulated for winter can thicken in cold temperatures. Have your oil changed to low-viscosity oil such as Mobil 1 Advanced Fuel Economy synthetic oil, which flows rapidly to provide protection. Since it reduces friction, it can also help improve fuel economy. Changing your oil as recommended in all seasons will keep your engine clean and help it last longer.

By Jil McIntosh of Wheels.ca