Everyone knows to take care of their home, but not everyone is up to speed on what it takes to get their car ready for the long nights and short days. All cars need some general maintenance during the winter.

Ice can be a big problem on your way to your car, but it can severely damage the performance of your car if it gets inside it, specifically inside the fuel lines. A bottle of fuel de-icer once a month will help keep those lines open and the fuel flowing. Fuel lines are much more likely to ice up when tanks aren’t full, so keep your tank about half full the entire winter, and you won’t have to worry.

Most people know that regular oil changes are essential for the long life of their car. If you are getting close to needing a change and bad weather is on the way, stop into your local shop or make time yourself to make sure the vital liquid elixir is up to date in your machine. Many people don’t know that heavy stop-and-go traffic actually burns through the life of oil much quicker. If you spend a lot of time on the freeway, changing your oil more frequently will benefit your car.

If your heater isn’t working properly, you’ve probably already noticed the discomfort that comes from a cold ride, but a properly working heating system is also essential for safety. Because the heater is connected to your defroster, poor performance will mean longer times warming up and less visibility as you are driving. Wiper blades covered in rubber will fight the ice build-up associated with bad climates. You’ll also want to keep your windshield washer full. Probably the most important element is a good hand scraper. Many come covered with gloves so you can clean your windshields in the harshest conditions.

Finally, check your tires. Old, worn tires won’t keep you on the road in icy, wet conditions. Look for wearing, particularly if it is uneven, cupping and cuts or nicks on the tires. A flat tire in winter weather puts you in a much worse predicament than one in sunny weather. Make sure your spare tire is in good shape when you do the inspection and all of the equipment is in place before the winter weather arrives.

Of course, all of this advice depends on your location. If you are in the deserts of Arizona, you probably don’t have to worry about de-icer, but if you are north of the nation’s capital, you’re going to want to take extra precautions.

Older cars will generally have more problems than newer ones. Always consult your owner’s manual or a reputable dealer to make sure your car lasts as long as you do. No one likes to think about it yet, but winter will soon be here. There are plenty of things to look forward to in the wintertime — the holidays, vacations, time with family — but the cold weather brings some responsibility with it, too. 

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