The official start of winter is almost here. Is your vehicle ready for it? If winters in your area are mild, there may be little preparation required. However, if the season is harsh where you live, there are several important steps to take to protect your vehicle and yourself from cold weather hazards and emergencies. Here’s how you can keep your ride running and yourself safe on the roads this winter. 

Ensure your vehicle’s major systems are in working order. If you’re handy, inspect your vehicle yourself, or have your mechanic do it. Make sure your heating system and defroster work, have the brakes and battery tested, inspect the exhaust, check on the coolant and antifreeze levels, put in winter-grade oil and confirm that the headlights and brake lights are in working order.

Inspect your tires. Make sure that your tires are up to snuff for winter driving. Check to ensure their air pressure is at the proper level. Be on the lookout for shallow treads, uneven wear, cupping, sidewall cracking and other damage. If you get regular snow accumulation in your area and have summer or high-performance tires on your vehicle, swap them out for snow tires or at least all-season tires. You can also place bags of sand over the rear wheels of your vehicle (such as in the trunk) to increase traction and to pour into the snow for extra grip if you get stuck.

Check your wiper blades and windshield washer fluid. Snow, ice and salt from the roads can coat your windshield and severely impair your vision. You’ll want to make sure your wiper blades are not worn or hardened and that your washer fluid reservoir is full. Make sure to use winter washer fluid that’s designed for freezing temperatures. It’s also a good idea to keep extra fluid in your vehicle along with an ice scraper and brush.

Stock your trunk with emergency equipment: Make sure your trunk has an emergency kit, in case you get stuck or stranded in winter conditions. Jumper cables, basic auto tools, a first-aid kit, a flashlight and road flares are good all-season supplies to keep in your vehicle. For regions with cold or snowy weather, you should also consider a shovel, tire traction mats, cold weather gear, blankets or a sleeping bag, candles and matches, water, high-energy snacks, a phone charger and spare phone and flashlight batteries.

If possible, park your vehicle in a garage (ideally a heated one) when not in use to minimize the effects of snow and cold on its body, components and fluids. Avoid driving in extreme conditions such as blizzards, especially in remote areas. Stay safe, and enjoy the winter season!