* Check your tires. You depend on your tires more during the winter than any other season. So before the roads get slick, check your tires to be sure they aren't worn and that they are properly inflated. You should be able to find the proper tire pressure on the inside of your driver's side door. Once you're sure your tire pressure is appropriate, make a note to check again later in the winter. Cold air will cause the air in your tires to compress and may cause your tires to lose pressure.
* Check your brakes. Your brakes will work harder once the icy conditions of winter set in. Make sure they are up to the task by bringing your vehicle in to your mechanic for a thorough brake inspection.
* Wash and wax your car at a professional car wash. Putting your car through the car wash during the sloppiest season of the year may seem a strange idea but a thorough wash can remove harmful compounds that may cause damage when mixed with sand and road salt. Experts from the International Carwash Association also recommend a coat of wax for an extra layer of protection from the elements. Besides protecting your car, you'll also be protecting the environment. Professional car washes can save up to 20 percent of the amount of water you'd use by washing your car at home. They do this by treating and reusing their water, rather than releasing toxic chemicals and grime into the storm drains, which can often occur when you wash your car yourself. You can learn more about the environmental benefits of a professional car wash at washwithwatersavers.com.
* Check fluids. It's good practice to stay on top of fluids such as oil, windshield washer or transmission fluid. But in the winter, no fluid is more important than your coolant because, if you're out of coolant, you're out of heat. Your owner's manual will tell you how much coolant you need as well and provide the correct blend. It's also never a bad idea to keep an additional bottle of coolant in your car for emergencies.
* Test your battery. A lack of coolant will stop your heater from working and so will a dead battery. Before you head out this winter, be sure your battery is working properly. No one wants to be stranded by the side of the road with a dead battery and, in the cold winter months, being stranded could be dangerous.
* Check your wipers. You checked the wiper fluid along with your other fluids but don't forget the wipers themselves. Replace old wiper blades and make sure to have a reservoir full of wiper fluid.
* Winter emergency kit. Sometimes all the preparation in the world can't prevent a winter emergency. If you find yourself stranded by the side of the road, a winter survival kit can be very helpful. Include an ice scraper/brush, extra blankets or clothes - including hats and gloves - snacks and bottled water and a first aid kit. A small shovel can come in handy if you get stuck and a bag of cat litter can be used to provide needed traction for your tires.
Getting your vehicle ready for winter while temperatures are still mild is a proactive approach to preventive maintenance that helps ensure safety, reliability and fewer unexpected repairs when severe winter weather strikes. By planning ahead you can ensure that your family and your car will be in for a smooth ride all winter long.