As temperatures drop, make sure to winterize your vehicle

WASHINGTON — Winter arrives in about two weeks, but winter-like temperatures are already here. Is your vehicle ready for the coldest months of the year?

The first few nights of sub-freezing temperatures can test a weak battery, said David Muhlbaum of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance.

“A dead battery on a cold morning — no fun at all. What I recommend is that people get ahead of the game and take their car in for a quick, cheap, sometimes free battery check,” Muhlbaum said.

Check your tire pressure frequently; some drivers might even consider investing in snow tires: “In the D.C. metropolitan area, we tend to skate by on our all-season tires, but I think people should give winter tires a consideration, especially if they’re heading out to ski country,” he said.

Muhlbaum added that modern snow tires are quieter and provide more traction than ever before.

As fall transitions into winter, some drivers might have noticed a buildup of leaves and debris under the hood.

“Your car, just like your house, it has gutters. There are ways for the water that lands on the car to get to the ground … leaves can get into those places and over time, they can decompose and create a muck that can prevent the water from draining. Open up the hood and get any leaves out before you have trouble down the road,” he said.

Drivers should keep tabs on their coolant and wiper fluid throughout the winter months, and make sure their wiper blades are in working order.

When a rush hour snowfall jammed thousands of drivers on Jan. 20, 2016, many were stuck on the wayside or in traffic jams deep into the night. For ordeals such as this, a winter weather survival kit could become a lifesaver. The American Red Cross recommends storing the following items in your vehicle:

  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • Cellphone car charger
  • Blanket and/or emergency Mylar blanket
  • Fleece hat, gloves, scarf
  • Flares
  • Folding shovel
  • Sand or cat litter
  • Ice scraper and snow brush
  • First-aid kit
  • Small battery-operated radio
  • Emergency contact card with names and phone numbers
  • Extra prescription medications
  • Bottled water
  • High-protein snacks
  • Maps
  • Whistle

Muhlbaum added that drivers should store the essentials somewhere accessible: “Put it in the glovebox. That way you don’t have to worry about getting out of the car or not being able to get out of the car to get to your emergency kit in the trunk.”

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