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Column

Steinbach: How to keep your car winter ready as temperatures drop

Car safety is an important topic at any time of the year, but more so during the winter. These tips will help anyone prepare for safe travels.
Car safety is an important topic at any time of the year, but more so during the winter. These tips will help anyone prepare for safe travels.

Driving becomes significantly more dangerous in the winter, with about 76,000 people injured in weather-related car crashes every year.

Cold temperatures, along with weather conditions such as snow and sleet, introduce a number of safety problems, with potential car problems near the top of the list.

Knowing what to do after a traffic incident is important, but taking preventive measures will help avoid having to use that knowledge.

Fortunately, there are a variety of precautions to take to make your car safer during the winter months. Following these steps will help ensure your own safety as well as that of friends and family.

A few minutes of preparation can stop a minor problem from becoming more serious.

The government recommends a short list of items to keep on hand while driving in potentially hazardous conditions, and this always should be the first safety step as winter approaches.

Even if something goes wrong, having the right supplies will keep you and your passengers safe until help arrives.

Recommended items to have include a change of clothes; a pair of gloves and a warm hat for each passenger; a portable cellphone battery in case the car dies; calorie-dense snacks, such as jerky or nuts; sand to provide traction if the car gets stuck; blankets; and a first aid kit to treat any injuries.

It’s easy to put off taking care of your car until something goes wrong, but it simply isn’t worth taking that risk during the winter. Start by checking antifreeze and engine coolant levels. Both of these are simple checks (engine coolant kits are available at any auto supply store), and they are easy to replenish.

You also should double-check your tires – the most important part of a car during the winter months.

As tires wear down, they begin to get less traction in the snow, which can make driving unsafe.

If you live in an area that’s particularly prone to harsh conditions, consider buying tires that can handle the weather.

Tire pressure also is crucial to a car’s performance and quickly can be verified using a gauge found at auto supply stores. A car’s manual will provide guidelines for tire pressure, and tires can be filled at many gas stations.

• Rae Steinbach is a graduate of Tufts University with a combined international relations and Chinese degree. After spending time living and working abroad in China, she returned to New York City to pursue her career and continue curating quality content. Steinbach is passionate about travel, food and writing, of course.

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