Battery: Cold weather is hard on batteries, so itís wise to have the battery and charging system tested to assure optimum performance. As batteries donít always give warning signs before they fail, it is advisable to replace your vehicle's battery if it's more than three years old.
Jumper Cables: If it gets cold enough the water inside your battery can freeze and actually damage the battery to the point where it won't hold a charge. So even if you have a brand-new battery, pack a set of jumper cables in your trunk - just in case.
Antifreeze: Antifreeze (coolant) should be flushed and refilled at least every two years in most vehicles. When mixed with water to the recommended proportions, antifreeze protects your engine from freezing over, which can result in a costly repair. Antifreeze also contains lubricants to keep elements of your cooling system, like the water pump, lubricated.
Brakes: Have the brake system checked. Brakes are critical to vehicle safety and particularly important when driving on icy or snow-covered roads. If you're not already aware of how your brake pedal pulsates when the Anti-locking Braking System (ABS) is engaged, look for a safe place away from other vehicles and practice a panic stop. Sometimes drivers are startled by the sensation of the ABS system engaging in an emergency situation that they lift their foot off the brake.
Tires: Check the tire tread depth and tire pressure, including the spare. Since snow and ice are a problem in our area, consider special winter tires designed to claw through snow and grip slick roads. During winter, tire pressure should be checked weekly as tires lose pressure when temperatures drop.
Oil: Always be diligent about changing your engine's oil at recommended intervals and have the fuel, air and transmission filters checked at the same time. Refer to your owner's manual to check if the manufacturer recommends switching to low-viscosity oil in winter, as it will flow more easily between moving parts when cold.
Lights & Wipers: Make sure all exterior and interior lights are working so you can see and be seen. Check the fluid level in the windshield washer reservoir and replace wiper blades that are torn, cracked or donít properly clean your windshield.
Gasoline: Drivers should keep their vehicleís gas tank at least half-full to decrease the chances of moisture forming in the gas lines and possibly freezing. It also provides a measure of safety should you be rerouted due to road conditions.
Brushes and Scrapers: Make sure your vehicle is equipped with a window ice scraper and a snow brush. When purchasing, make sure the scraper is sturdy enough to tackle a thick build-up of ice and make sure the brush is long enough for you to be able to reach the middle of your vehicle's roof.
Emergency Kit: Stock an emergency kit with a flashlight, blanket, extra warm clothes including socks, bottled water, dry food snacks, and any needed medication. In addition, purchase several votive or tea candles and a box of matches or a lighter. A few lighted candles inside your car are enough to raise the temperature above freezing. Just remember that like all fires, the candles will generate carbon monoxide so you need to crack a window or two to allow the C02 to escape and the fresh air to come in.