9 Hot Tips For Cold Weather Driving

Yes, it's that time of year again. A time those of us living in the 'Snow Belt' dread — getting up early to scrape snow and ice, letting our cars warm up a little bit longer to compensate for the change in temperature. But, truth be told, there are quite a few ways to better prepare your car to battle the elements.

1) Check your coolant: Always read antifreeze labels closely to be sure you have the antifreeze-to-water mix correct. The antifreeze stops your radiator from cracking and freezing, and water will prevent overheating, even in winter temperatures.

2) Battery maintenance: You'll need 3-4 more times the starting power in colder weather. Have a draw and load test performed by a mechanic. Should your battery fail that test, then a recharge may prolong its' life for an additional year. Barring that, investing in a new battery is equally wise.

3) Washer fluid: Frozen fluid lurking in your windshield washer tank is extremely dangerous. It's wise to use a commercial fluid that's been premixed. Check your hoses thoroughly, and and if necessary, use a thin piece of wire to clean your washer nozzles out.

4) Electrical system: Make sure to examine your distributor cap, points, plugs, ignition coil, spark plug cables, and condenser. These checks are vitally important, for if these items were functioning at borderline capacity during the summer, then chances are they'll fail completely in winter.

5) Hoses and belts: Short and to the point — if they're cracked and / or fraying, replace them as soon as possible!

6) Tire wear: With all-season tires, ensure the tread will still give traction on slippery roads. If not, then snow tires become your best choice. For front wheel drive vehicles, your 'snows' should be on the front. And always store your 'summer' tires on their sides as opposed to on their tread, which can cause flat spots and cause them to become unbalanced. Inflate stored tires to just about half their normal pressure.

7) Windshield: Your best defense here is to apply an anti-fogging compound to the inside surface of the glass.

8) Cleaning hints: Remove dead bugs from your radiator by hosing it from inside your engine compartment. Also, ensure all leaves and other such debris are cleared from the fresh-air intake port on your car's ventilation system.

9) Stock up on cold weather items: Get more flares, as well as an aerosol drying agent for wet wires. A scraper / brush combo is a good bet, along with a military-type collapsible shovel for those emergency dig-outs. Lock de-icers for your car as well as your home are excellent choices, too.

There's an old saying that applies here — 'proper planning prevents poor performance'. This is so true when it applies to winterizing your car. If you plan ahead, and plan properly, you'll avoid costly breakdowns and their accompanying mechanical issues when cold weather hits.