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If you’re like most people, you’re causing severe damage to your car and putting yourself in danger. Cold weather is tough on even the newest cars and if you make these common mistakes you could be on the road to costly repairs! Here are the top 7 things you need to know to keep you, and your car, safe from low temperatures this year!

Let Your Car Engine Warm Up

Warm up your vehicle, aiming for at least 2-3 minutes to get the oil moving through the engine. Be sure to open the garage and check that the tailpipe is clear before heating up a vehicle to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Shifting as soon as you start the car doesn’t allow the oil to get flowing and lubricating parts. If your vehicle sits out overnight in the cold, the oil is less viscous. Warming the engine will allow the oil to thin and flow like normal and lubricate all the parts of the engine, avoiding damage to various parts of your motor.

All-Weather vs. Winter Tires

When a car leaves the dealership, it is usually with all weather tires. These tires are designed to maximize fuel economy and last for thousands of miles. All-weather tires perform well on both, dry and wet roads, and on roads with a slight dusting of snow.

Beyond a light dusting of snow, all-weather tires are not suitable for safe driving. They don’t perform well in snow or on icy conditions., a provider of auto information for consumers, compared all-weather tires with winter tread tires in Minnesota.

A Honda Civic Si was equipped with both, all-weather and winter tires and put through several tests each. Both tests took place in snowy and icy conditions. First, they tested how long it took for the car to reach 40 mph. When fitted with snow tires, the Civic took 11.7 seconds to reach 40 mph. By contrast, it took 41.7 seconds to reach the same speed with all-season treads. This is because the tread patterns on winter tires are designed to cut through snow and ice.

Next, they tested how long it took the car to stop when traveling 60 mph. The ability to stop quickly is even more important. The Civic with snow tires, traveling at 60 mph, required 362 feet to stop in snowy conditions. That’s the length of a football field, including the end zones. By comparison, with all-weather tires, the car needed 421 feet to stop.

All-season tires are a great option for drivers who live in moderate climates that do not encounter extreme cold, ice and snow in the winter months. For those who live in areas where snow is a regular occurrence, it’s best to switch to snow tires during the winter.

If you do decide to buy snow tires, having them mounted on their own wheels is a smart move. That way you can simply change wheels when winter arrives and switch back in the spring. Most good snow tires will last more than one season, so you can store them in your garage during the summer months.

Check Your Tire Pressure

The air pressure in your tires needs to be checked once winter has arrived. Tire pressure drops approximately one pound per square inch for every 10-degree drop in temperature. Checking tire pressure in late October won’t be an accurate indicator of what it will be in January, so check the pressure after it’s turned cold. To be safe, check all of your tires once a month to ensure they are at proper inflation all season.

Battery Maintenance

Many people tend to ignore their car’s batteries until an issue arises. It is often assumed the battery will always work. However, cold weather puts a greater strain on batteries because engines are harder to start and batteries aren’t as strong when it’s cold. As you prepare your car for winter, have your battery checked to make sure it’s working at peak efficiency. If it’s not, look into replacing it before the temperatures drop too far.

Cable connections are also crucial to the performance of your battery. If there is corrosion on the connectors, remove the cables, pour a small amount of baking soda and water on the corrosion, and it should come off easily.

You can also buy a battery insulator that wraps around the battery to add an extra layer of protection and warmth against the elements.

Wash and Wax

It’s good practice to wash and wax your car before the first snow. When cars leave the factory they are treated with primer, under-coating, paint, and a clear coat finish to protect the visible areas of a car.

Since the protective layers wear over time, waxing your car is the best way to protect it from rust and oxidation.

In addition to waxing your car, you should wash it as often as possible (weather permitting) to clean off the road salt and slush. Salt can cause severe damage to your cars frame, body, and under carriage.

When cleaning your car, be sure to clean the underside as well. Salt collects in the nooks and crannies under the car, and if it’s not removed could turn metal to rust.

Emergency Car Survival Kit

Chances are that over the years you’ve seen cars and trucks (or have even been) stuck on roads and highways during the winter. Some of which don’t move for hours. That’s why it’s a good idea to pack an emergency kit. Just in case you should find yourself waiting for help.

The emergency kit should include:

  • Blankets
  • Collapsible nylon bag or small backpack to carry essential items if you abandon the car
  • First-aid kit
  • Flashlight
  • Hand/foot warmers
  • Heavy-duty trash bags (you’d be surprised how warm they keep you)
  • Medications
  • Multi-purpose knife
  • Phone charger
  • Small shovel
  • Small tool kit
  • Walking shoes/boots
  • Water/energy bars
  • Work gloves

It’s natural to take care of yourself as winter approaches. It’s equally important to take care of your car. Adding a coat of wax will protect the body from the elements, and switching out the tires adds extra grip to help keep you safe. Finally, having both a well-maintained battery and an emergency kit can save your life. Knowing that your car will start under frigid conditions means you’ll have heat when you need it most, and an emergency kit that includes some essentials such as food, blankets, and medicine could save your life.

Fuel Up Regularly

During winter months, always keep your gas tank at least half-full. A full gas tank helps keep moisture from forming, which can help keep fuel lines from freezing. Condensation can form in the empty part of your gas tank. In the winter, that condensation can freeze into icy blockages in your fuel lines. The best way to avoid this happening is to keep your tank at least half full during the winter.