Preparing for Winter DrivingWhether you’ve got a new car or an old one, you need to take some time to perform routine maintenance on your ride when winter comes around, especially in Maryland where we can experience some fierce winters. We’re sharing these 10 winter weather tips with you to help keep your car in tip-top condition throughout the winter season.

It’s important to think about your car as the weather changes and give these tips a quick once-over. Many people never think to check most of these items, even though we know what kind of weather January will bring. These are important tips – the last thing you need is to be stranded on the side of the road in the middle of winter.

1. Inspect your antifreeze – It’s best to check your antifreeze while your engine is cold. Use a tester to check the mixture for its freeze point, these are available at any automotive parts store. A 50/50 ratio means 50% distilled water and 50% antifreeze, which is sufficient in most climates.

2. Check your charging system – You can check your charging system for free at any local auto parts store. Starting your vehicle in cold weather makes your battery work much harder and as you probably know, batteries like to fail at the most inopportune times.

3. Change your oil and oil filter – Even if you’re not due for a little while, it’s a good idea to change your oil and filter before the weather changes. Clean, high quality engine oil goes a long way in protecting the motor in cold start situations.

4. Check all external lights – Don’t forget to check your lights, all your lights. Make you’re your headlights, brake lights, driving lights, marker bulbs, and third level brake lights are all in working order. Driving at night is bad enough, you should have all your lights working to see and be seen properly.

5. Check tire treads – Sufficient tire tread is a must in winter weather. Check your tires yourself or take it to a shop and have them checked. Quality tire tread sheds the snow, ice and road grime more quickly, providing better traction for improved safety. Also, check your tire pressure regularly, especially in colder temperatures.

6. Check wiper blades and washer fluid –  Seeing clearly is essential to driving safely in any weather, but especially when snow and ice may be a factor. Make sure that your wiper blades are in good condition. They should fully clear your windshield and back. Remember, road salt and slush can jeopardize visibility. Check your washer fluid levels and make sure you’re using washer fluid containing de-icer. It’s a good idea to use Rain-X Treatment on windows to help avoid having to chisel and scrape off ice early in the morning.

7.Inspect engine belts and hoses – This is one area that’s most commonly overlooked. If you have a damaged or worn belt or hose, the rubber won’t stand up in freezing temperature.

8. Replace your Cabin Air Filter – Outside contaminants collect in your air filter. When you run your heater on “high” during the cold months, it only sends the micro-particles deeper into the vehicle.

9. Wash and wax your car – Rain, snow and salt are extremely tough on your vehicle’s paint. Be sure to wash and have a good quality car wax before winter weather sets in to add another barrier between road grime and your vehicle’s paint.

10. Prepare a roadside emergency kit –  In the event that you DO get stuck on the side of the road, you need to be prepared. Your kit should include a flashlight with fresh batteries, a blanket, food bars, water bottles, cell phone, jumper cables, flares, Fix-a-Flat, and a first aid kit.

It’s not hard – you can take care of most of these in your garage at home. The important thing is to actually do them all. With just a little preparation, you’ll have a much safer winter driving season this year.