NEW YORK (CNN/Money) -
Winter is right around the corner, and that means icy roads, snow drifts and overall poor driving conditions. Taking the time to prepare your car for winter before the first freeze will save you a lot of trouble, so today's top 5 Tips are what you should do to winterize your car.
1. Check those fluids
If you didn't change your anti-freeze last year, you'll want to do it now.
Your car's antifreeze is an especially important fluid in the winter because it keeps your car's engine, radiator and hoses from freezing. It also prevents engine corrosion.
If you try to go without anti-freeze, your car will break down immediately, said Philip Reed of Edmunds.com. (Edmunds.com provides automotive content and data for CNN.com's automotive Websites.) You should have 50 percent anti-freeze to 50 percent water inside your car's radiator. That composition will protect you down to -40 degrees Fahrenheit according to the Better Business Bureau.
You can check out the composition of a radiator's mixture by purchasing an anti-freeze tester, which cost about $5, at any auto parts store. If the mixture is off, you can drain the old mixture from the radiator and add more anti freeze and water.
Keep in mind that old ant- freeze is toxic, so you'll want to bring the old stuff to an auto parts store.
You should also change your engine oil about now. Check with your owners manual to see what kind of motor oil your car needs in the winter. According to Edmunds.com most cars have recommended oil grades of 5W-30, 10W-30 or 10W-40.
2. Keep tires healthy
If you live in New England or you live in a hilly area with a lot of snow, you may want to invest in snow tires, which improve traction by letting the tire rid itself of snow as it rolls, giving it a clear bite on the road.
Make sure that all the fees associated with buying tires are disclosed. An easy way to do this is to ask the salesperson for the "out the door charge," recommended Reed.
By doing this you'll be able to calculate all the extras into the price like balancing and mounting. To compare prices go to www.tirerack.com.
If you don't live in a particularly cold or winter storm prone area, you'll probably just want to maintain the pressure in tires you already have.
Do your tires have enough traction to grip snow covered roads? To find out, take a test drive. If your tires lose traction when you break hard on wet roads or if you lose traction accelerating uphill you will need to inflate your tires because they shrink in cold weather.
In fact, for every 10-degree Fahrenheit change in temperature, your tire's inflation pressure will change by about 1 psi. Inflated tires also help protect against wheel damage if you hit potholes.
3. Don't get iced out
There's nothing worse than being frozen out of your own car.
To keep your doors swinging in even the coldest of weather, some have recommended applying a coat of petroleum jelly to the door's hinges and door latches.
If it's your lock that's frozen, use a lighter or a match to heat the key briefly. Then put it into the lock and turn gently. You can also use a lock de-icer.
4. Charge your battery
Cold temperatures can cut the life of your battery in half, according to Edmunds.com, lagely because it takes a lot more power to start your car when it is cold outside. And batteries don't give any notice before they decide to quit.
You can test your battery by buying a battery hydrometer from your local auto parts store. They generally retail for about $3. You will also want to make sure the cables have no corrosion and that the connections are tight.
If your vehicle battery is older than three years, have it tested at a certified automotive repair facility. "Batteries tend to last about three years and then fail suddenly," said Reed at Edmunds.
5. Prepare an emergency kit
Get an emergency kit together to store in the back of your car. It should contain jumper cables, tire chains and a tool kit.
Load up on a few pounds of kitty litter or sand in case you need to get out of a slippery situation, and keep an ice scraper and a shovel in the trunk.
Finally, stock up on flares, flashlights, blankets and first aid supplies.
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