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How to prepare your car for winter

Winter is coming… err, it’s already here. Parts of the country that have never experienced snow have been blanked with a fresh batch of power in recent months, and as one might expect, people are beginning to lose their minds. However, you’ve never truly experiences the icy fingers of winter, you might not know how to properly prepare your car for the season. With winter comes freezing temperatures, ice, and snow, all of which posses the ability to turn a leisurely drive downtown into an accident waiting to happen. The weather puts unusual strain on your vehicle as well, placing demand on parts and equipment you may have overlooked during the sunny heyday that was summer. Below are a few tips for braving the winter months with your car. Also, officially apologize for the Game of Thrones reference — some things are just too easy.

Related: The Manual’s favorite winter tires and guide to driving in the snow

Step 1: Shelter your car

If you have the ability to put your car in a garage or under an awning, we recommend taking advantage of it. Waking up in the wee hours of the morning to scrape ice off your windows isn’t particularly fun, or easy, for that matter. Paring your vehicle in warm, dry area will make leaving in the morning immensely easier. If you don’t have access to covered parking, you can buy a cover at any hardware store to keep the snow and cold out.

Step 2: Check your battery

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[Image courtesy of Pavel Lysenko/Shutterstock]

Car batteries hate being cold. Even a working battery can refuse to turn over if it doesn’t like the weather. Consider replacing your battery, or at the very least, take it to the mechanic and get it checked. The tests aren’t 100-percent accurate, so if you’re concerned, simply opt for a new battery or purchase a pair of jumper cables if you haven’t already.

Step 3: Schedule an inspection

A checkup may be optional, but it’s never a bad idea to bring your vehicle into a licensed profession before driving in the winter. Doing so will inform you whether your car’s various systems and parts — the radiator, brakes, etc. — are in proper working condition, while ensuring your car’s fluids — antifreeze, break fluid, oil, etc. — are at the correct levels. We also recommend leaving at least half a tank of gas in your car at all times to prevent your gas line from freezing.

Step 4: Equip chains or snow tires

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[Image courtesy of mezzotint/Shutterstock]

Now that the inside of the car is taken care of, it’s time to take your maintenance tasks the outside. Tires are key to ensuring a safe drive in icy conditions. Make sure the tread isn’t worn down to less than 1/8 inches to ensure you get proper traction. Also, be on the look at the square tires in cold places, which is the result of warm air rising inside the tire. The tires will likely round out once you start driving, but if they don’t, you may want to get it checked out as you could have a bigger problem. Moreover, you should considering buying chains or snow tires if you live in an area that gets a good deal of snow. You typically put the latter option on your vehicle for the entire winter, while you can take the former off whenever you see fit. It’s all based on personal preference.

Step 5: Put together an emergency kit

While there’s certainly ample you can do to prevent ending up in a dangerous situation, you simply can’t plan for everything. That’s why it’s an excellent idea to pack yourself an emergency kit for the worst case scenario. Consider adding bottled water, flares, blankets, a shovel, a flashlight, batteries, and first aid kit. Also, consider buying kitty litter to melt ice if you get stuck. These are things that are always good to have in your car, especially if you’re worried about getting stuck in a snowbank.

Related: What to put in a home disaster preparedness kit?

Step 6: Purchase sand bags

Believe it or not, sandbags are your friend if you have a truck or a light car with rear-wheel drive. Purchase two large bags and put them in the bed of your truck, or the trunk of your car. Sandbags are relatively cheap, and moreover, help give you car a little extra weight on the road.

[Image courtesy of Dutourdumonde/Shutterstock]