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Winter weather can be unpredictable and requires extra caution and attentiveness when driving. Snow, sleet, and ice can drastically affect your driving experience and the way your vehicle runs. During cold weather, driving conditions can deteriorate rapidly in just a few hours.

For those who live in areas where ice and snow are non-existent, or very infrequent, it is important to take special note of winter driving tips. You may not get much practice driving in winter conditions, but

planning ahead will help you better prepare should a vacation or business trip make cold weather driving a necessity.

Before you drive:

  • Make sure fluid levels are topped off. The cold temperature will affect the way your vehicle starts and runs.
  • Keep your gas tank at least half full whenever possible. Empty tanks can make a car or truck hard to start due to condensation and moisture in gas lines. Additionally, should you be stranded, a full tank will allow you to run the vehicle as needed to keep from freezing while you wait for help.
  • Install tires that have tread designed for ice and snow, and make sure they are properly inflated.
  • Have your service technician check your vehicle to ensure the anti-lock brake system (ABS) and traction control system are working properly.
  • Keep an emergency kit in your vehicle. A standard winter kit includes a snow/ice scraper, shovel, jumper cables, blanket, gloves and boots. If you have room, you should also consider including an extra coat, water and snacks.
  • Fully clear your windshield and windows before you begin driving. Reduced visibility due to snow, ice, or even frost is an accident waiting to happen, especially if you are driving in snow.

When driving:

  • Leave the engine running if you are using the heater, radio, windshield wipers or any other electrical options. Cold weather places a strain on car batteries and makes it difficult to start the engine again if you’ve run down the power by turning the car off.
  • Allow your car to warm up during your drive. Idling your car in the driveway or a parking spot may make the inside warm, but it does nothing for the drive train components. It is more effective to drive a mile or two at 25mph.
  • Drive according to conditions. While AWD and ABS may help you keep control of your vehicle, they can not make up for safe driving. Be sure your speed is appropriate conditions and your distance from vehicles in front of you will allow plenty of time to stop.

If you become stranded:

  • Pull to the side of the road and tie something bright to your antenna. During the day avoid using lights to conserve the batter. At night, turn on your hazard lights.
  • Reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning by clearing snow from the exhaust pipe.
  • Limit the number of times you need to leave the vehicle by moving everything you may need from the trunk to the passenger area.
  • Once you have everything you need, stay inside the vehicle. It will offer protection from the elements, and will be easier to see by passing drivers.
  • Wrap your body with as many layers as you can find; clothing, blankets, and newspaper will provide an extra layer of warmth.
  • Moving your arms and legs frequently will improve circulation and help you stay warm.
  • If there are others in the vehicle with you, make use of body heat by huddling together for warmth.
  • Once per hour run the motor and heater for about 10 minutes to warm both you and the car. Open one window slightly to let fresh air in.
  • Avoid eating snow which will lower your body temperature.
  • Stay awake for as long as possible. This will allow you to be more aware of how you are feeling, as well as making you less vulnerable to potential health problems caused by the cold.