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Editorial: Make sure your vehicle is ready for cold temps

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With temperatures continuing to plunge below zero, it's a good idea to make sure your vehicle is ready to handle the weather.

Having a vehicle break down in cold weather is not something we look forward to. It's not too late to have your vehicle checked, saving you from the cost and hassle of unexpected emergency repairs when severe weather strikes.

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The Car Care Council suggests checking certain parts of your vehicle to make sure it can handle the winter weather.

Battery - Keep the battery connections clean, tight and corrosion-free. Batteries don't always give warning signs before they fail completely so it's wise to replace batteries that are more than three years old.

Antifreeze - Antifreeze (coolant) should be flushed and refilled at least every two years in most vehicles. As a reminder, do not add 100 percent antifreeze as full-strength antifreeze actually has a lower freeze point than when mixed with water.

Brakes - Have the brakes checked. The braking system is the vehicle's most important safety item and is key while driving on icy or snow-covered roads.

Tires - Check the tire tread depth and tire pressure. If snow and ice are a problem in your area, consider special tires designed to grip slick roads. During winter, tire pressure should be checked weekly as tires will lose pressure when temperatures drop.

Oil - Be diligent about changing the oil and filter at recommended intervals. Dirty oil can spell trouble in winter. Consider changing to low-viscosity oil in winter, as it will flow more easily between moving parts when cold.

Wiper blades - Cold weather can affect the life of windshield wipers. Wiper blades that are cracked or torn, or that chatter, streak and don't properly clean your windshield, should be changed. Check the windshield washer reservoir in case it needs fluid.

Gas level - Be sure to keep your vehicle's gas tank at least half full as that decreases the chances of moisture forming in the gas lines and possibly freezing.

If you're due for a tune-up, consider having it done as winter weather magnifies existing problems such as pings, hard starts, sluggish performance or rough idling.

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