Preparing yourself and your vehicle for winter

Although Dec. 22 may mark the official start of winter, that doesn’t mean motorists should wait until then to prepare their cars, especially for snowy, unpredictable days like today.

As they say, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” and before you hit the road this winter, the AAA Southern New England offers these tips to help you prepare yourself and your vehicle for colder weather:

On the outside — During the winter, visibility is very important. So inspect those wiper blades for wear and oil; and replace the summer versions with heavy-duty winter blades, including — if you have one — the blade on your rear window. Make sure your headlights and rear lights are working. And finally, oil your door and trunk locks with a special lock lubricant.

On the ground — Before installing snow tires, inspect the treads for wear. Worn tires lose their grip on slippery pavements. Make sure tires are properly inflated according to the manufacturer’s specifications. In cold weather, check tire pressure weekly since pressure can drop one pound per square inch for every 10 degrees the temperature drops. Make sure your spare is properly inflated too.

Under the hood — Examine hoses and belts for wear; top off your windshield wiper fluid. By now, you should have tested or replaced your antifreeze. Check battery cables for corrosion and clean them with baking soda if necessary. Have the battery tested to make sure it’s operating at full capacity.

And finally, in the trunk — Once your vehicle is in top condition, put an emergency kit in your trunk. At minimum, the kit should include:

• A bag of sand or kitty litter for traction when you’re stuck

• A snow shovel

• An ice scraper and brush

• A flashlight and fresh batteries

• Paper towels or rags

• Road triangles and flares

• A blanket, gloves, an extra jacket

• A first-aid kit

• Jumper cables

• A cell phone

Depending upon weather and road conditions, drive with common sense — a bit slower and with extra braking distance between vehicles. But sometimes the best driving decision is not to drive. If you’re uneasy about your abilities to drive on slick winter roads or your car’s ability to handle them, then stay home.

AAA Southern New England is a not-for-profit auto club with 50 offices in Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts, providing more than 2.7 million AAA members with travel, insurance, finance, and auto-related services.

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