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The first chill breeze of autumn means it 'Tis the season for snow and ice, slipping and sliding... and winter driving". Cold temperatures also affect the engine, fuel, cooling system, brakes and tires of your vehicle and now is the time to get your car tuned up.

Safe driving begins with thorough vehicle preparation. Before Heading for Snow Country, make sure your tires, brakes, chains, windshield wipers, heater/defroster, exhaust system, antifreeze/hoses, and battery are in top condition.

You should also check that the fluid levels of the oil, transmission and antifreeze. Carry emergency supplies for the car and passengers.


Check your tires. Tires with little tread are just asking for trouble. You may get along on dry roads, but add a little snow or ice and water and your current tires may not cut it. Make sure they are the properly inflated, check inflation frequently when the tires are cold, not after they have warmed to your driving. Remember that a sharp drop in temperature will drop the air pressure in your tires.

Improper inflation causes premature wear, can degrade handling and can cause an accident. Tires with minute cracks over large areas of the side wall are suffering from old age and should be replaced, no matter how much tread is left. Snow tires and/or all-weather radials that have worn to less than 1/4 inch aren't going to be of much use in real snow.

Don't expect like-new performance from a 2- or 3-year-old tire. No matter what season, tires at all four corners should match; different tread patterns on the same car will affect handling and braking for the worse.

Check for cuts, abrasions, uneven wear. Inspect the rim to see if you may have lost a balance weight, a loss that could cause premature wear and annoying vibration.


When was the last time you had your brakes checked? Even in summer, many of us drive with the windows closed, the radio on and the air conditioner humming away. All of these conditions prevent us from hearing those tell-tale sounds of brake problems.

On dry pavement, uneven braking power can usually be adjusted for. But you will have an exciting carnival ride experience with uneven braking power on ice and snow. Just plan on sliding around a lot and possibly some 360 degree turns as well.


Some areas permit chains or adequate snow tires. However, in extreme weather you may also need chains. Make sure they are the proper size for your tires and are in working order. When you buy new tires, it is a good idea to confirm that your chains still fit. Carry chain repair links and a few basic tools to make the repairs. An old towel to clean your hands with and a flashlight would also be good planning.


If you cannot see out the windshield, how you going to enjoy the beauty of the drive. You also need every advantage you can have in winter driving and seeing the road and what other drivers are doing is important.

Assure you visibility by making sure your windshield wipers work well. Replace your wiper blades. Also refill the windshield washer container with a winter-safe solution so you can clear slush and dirt without freeze-up. You may want to add special solvent to your windshield washer reservoir to prevent icing.

Your summer wipers won't be much use in heavy snow. Remember last year? Invest in winter blades, a k a snow blades. These come with the fingers that hold the blade proper encased in a rubber boot that prevents ice and snow from building up between the blade and the arm that holds it.

Such a buildup in a summer type blade will lift the rubber off the windshield, and visibility is diminished or gone altogether. (Do change back in the spring; winter blades do not work so well in summer rains.)

When you clean your windshield, clean the wiper blades, too. Dirt and oily scum build up on them, and it's of no use to clean the glass and then wipe it with oily scum on the blade. Anything that washes a windshield will serve to clean the wiper -- in a pinch, a little soda water works great.

When you clean your windshield, clean the lenses over your head lights and tail lights, too. They get even dirtier than the windshield. Now's the time to check for dead bulbs and replace them.

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