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    Maintaining your car throughout the year plays a vital part in keeping it ready for the road. However, when the temperatures begin to drop, there are a few extra steps you need to take to guarantee that your car is ready for the winter months. With a little know-how and a few tools, facing the elements and ensuring your car is safe to drive is simple if you live in an area that experiences snow.

    Check the Coolant System

    Just like other fluids in the vehicle, you should have the antifreeze checked and changed periodically. As it ages, the antifreeze fails to dissipate heat properly which in turn may fail to prevent freezing if the temperature falls too low. If freezing occurs, you risk damaging hoses, the water pump or worse yet, the engine. Changing the antifreeze every two years is a good choice as this makes sure it is up to par. In between changes, and especially during the winter months, you should check the antifreeze and keep it at the recommended level at all times. You can also test it with an antifreeze tester, which alerts you to the ratio of water to antifreeze. Typically, cars need a mix of 50 per cent water and 50 per cent antifreeze to prevent freezing during the winter months. Having too much water can result in costly repairs.

    Hoses

    Maintaining the coolant system does not end with checking the antifreeze levels. You should also check all hoses and the radiator to make sure they are free of cracks or bulges. If you suspect a crack or leak, most mechanics can pressure test the coolant system to diagnose the problem. Cracks can allow antifreeze to leak out which in turn may cause the vehicle to overheat.

    Check the Brakes

    While checking the brakes is something that you should do year round, having them inspected before winter hits is ideal as your car is going to experience harsher conditions. If brake pads or rotors show signs of wear, or are malfunctioning, this can hinder your ability to stop smoothly and safely, especially on snow or ice covered roads. You should also regularly check the brake fluid level.

    Check the Tyres

    Having bald or dry rotted tyres is dangerous anytime, but when facing inclement road conditions, they become even more of a hazard. Have your tyres rotated and inspected to ensure they are ready for the road. If your tyres have too much wear, have them replaced before attempting to drive on icy or snowy roads. If you drive in areas that are prone to snow for any length of time, winter tyres are ideal. These tyres feature construction that enables them to maintain better traction in snowy conditions. When checking tyres, do not forget the spare. Make sure it has adequate pressure and is in good condition in case you need to use it.

    Check Lights and Wipers

    Lights and wipers are two components that add safety to driving, so take a few minutes during the winter months and check all of the lights. Make sure the bulbs light up, including the blinkers and fog lights. While most people do not think about their wiper blades until they have to use them, they should be replaced every six months. During the winter, fill the washer fluid reservoir with wiper fluid designed to resist freezing. If the wipers freeze to the windshield, leave them off. Forcing them on can cause them to become damaged, hindering your safety.

    Stock the Car

    Getting stranded is never fun, but in winter conditions it may become dangerous. For this reason, you should keep certain items in your car, just in case. While you may never have to use the items, they can become lifesaving tools in perilous situations. Chains and cat litter or sand can help if your vehicle becomes stuck. Basic tools such a screwdrivers, flashlights and jumper cables can come in handy if the vehicle breaks down. Blankets, flares and a first aid kit go a long way in keeping you safe.

    Protect the Exterior and Interior

    If you do not have a garage or carport and are worried about your vehicle's paint job, investing in a car cover can go a long way in keeping the exterior free from rust and other damage. For the inside of the car, all weather floor mats keep the carpet free from dirt, mud and snow. These are easy to install and maintain. When winter's over, just store them until next season.

    Every vehicle has different needs and the owner's manual is a good resource as far as routine maintenance goes. However, safety is a priority and this means making sure your vehicle is ready for the road when winter hits. With some knowledge and a few basic items, you can combat rough winter conditions and a range of potential problems for your car.

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