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Get ready, get set, SNOW!

What’s the best thing you can do to ensure your safety on the roadways this winter? Prepare. Sure, if you’re the kind who thinks about roof leaks only when it’s raining, you won’t pay much heed to this advice. But for the rest of us, here are some things to take care of before the snow flies and the ice lies:

  • Cooling system: Use a 50-50 antifreeze-to-water mix to keep it from freezing, change it per manufacturer’s recommendations to keep rust inhibitors fresh, and check for leaks.
  • Snow tires: Four-wheel, all-wheel or two-wheel, if you really need to get around in the snow, Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers®, advise that “top-quality snow tires are the single best thing you can do.” See “What to know to go on snow”
  • Electrical systems: Check the battery, charging system and belts, replacing the battery now if there’s any chance it could strand you this winter.
  • Windshield wipers: Do they work well? Consider special heavier blades just for winter.
  • Defrosters: Make sure the rear one works and that you know the optimum way to keep your car’s windshield clear inside and out at all times. (Using the airconditioner and defroster with the heat on should keep the windshield from fogging up.)
  • Washer fluid: It goes fast, so get the good stuff, fill up the reservoir before you drive and maybe even carry a gallon with you on trips.
  • Gas tank: Keep it full so you aren’t hiking for a refill in the cold and so you can idle the engine to stay warm if you are stranded because of weather.
  • In your trunk: jumper cables, flares, snow brush, mini shovel, winter gloves & hat, 12V DC air compressor, energy bars. If you carry a bag of sand or cat litter in your rear-wheel-drive vehicle, make sure it’s right over the axle so the weight is to your advantage…not short-changing you on steering and braking capabilities.

Face it, most years we just don’t get enough snow to be good at driving through it until about halfway into February. So when you have a chance early in the snowy season, find an empty parking lot and practice turning, braking and getting out of a skid so you have the feel of your car and know what to expect of it on the road. With antilock brakes, press down firmly and hold it (expect the pulse); without ABS, gently pump the pedal.

In ice and snow, take it slow…or don’t go. If you must venture out, drive slowly with headlights on, give yourself extra room to stop, and be hyper-vigilant.

—reprinted in part from Driving Times21