* Wiper fluid is important, especially when roads have been treated with salt or chemicals that splash onto windshields. It's not unusual to use a half-gallon of fluid during a lengthy drive in a snowstorm. Top off your supply after Thanksgiving and keep what's left in the trunk for a mid-winter refresh.
* Inspect all tires and replace when necessary. Even in small amounts, snow and ice cause tires to barely grab the road, making worn tire tread especially dangerous. Snow tires provide the best control and are a good investment for vehicles that must be driven before streets are plowed or for areas where snowfalls are frequent. In areas where snow is an occasional nuisance, all-weather radials will suffice. Be sure to check tires for proper inflation. The owner's manual and the inside driver's side door should contain proper inflation levels.
* Test and replace coolant and antifreeze. Auto parts stores often sell antifreeze testers for less than $5. They are simple to use and the actual test takes just a moment. Frozen coolant lines might expand and burst an engine block if your antifreeze is not replaced immediately.
A complete flush and refill with 50 percent antifreeze and 50 percent water will keep your engine cooling lines free of ice in the winter and remove rust and dirt particles that effect the cooling system in the summer. In climates where temperatures drop to less than 34 below zero, a mixture of 70 percent antifreeze and 30 percent water is necessary.
* Don't forget routine maintenance, including replacing worn parts like hoses, belts, water pumps, spark plug wires, and distributor caps. Cold weather can hasten their deterioration. Check under the hood for cracked rubber on hoses and for slack and damage to belts that drive the engine, alternator, air conditioning and fan.
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