SOURCE: ExxonMobil

November 29, 2010 08:00 ET

Cold Weather Car Prep

MISSION, KS--(Marketwire - November 29, 2010) - (Family Features) As the last colorful leaf hits the ground in late autumn, the thoughts of what's coming next -- dropping temperatures, frozen precipitation, cold car seats, and poor road conditions -- can lead to some anxiety. Not only do you need to dress appropriately, you also need to prepare your automobile appropriately.

"As temperatures decrease, there are a few things that you should do to ensure that your vehicle is winter weather ready," says Jessi Combs, a car care expert and fabricator who's appeared on shows such as "Mythbusters," "Overhaulin'" and "Xtreme 4x4." "Running down this checklist will mean you can stay on the road and warm inside the car rather than potentially calling for assistance."

  • Test your tires. Cool air is less dense, taking up less space in your tire and diminishing tire pressure. Make sure your tires are inflated properly. Too little pressure will amplify tread wear and intensify your fuel consumption; too much pressure can decrease traction, especially in wintry conditions. Check the side of your tire or your owner's manual for proper pressure setting. As during any season, make sure you also inspect your treads and replace any tires that look worn.

  • Stock the trunk. In case your car does break down or get stuck, it's smart to be prepared. Store a few helpful items in your trunk. An ice scraper is good to have on hand, to not only clear windows, but de-ice your headlights and taillights. A large bag of sand will add weight, improving traction while driving over slippery, frozen pavement. Keep a small shovel to help dig yourself out in case you do get stuck. It's also a good idea to keep a set of jumper cables in your car to help get you back on the road if your battery dies. Finally, throw an extra blanket, hat and gloves, a flashlight and some snacks in the trunk, just in case.

  • Check your oil. During cold winters, your car needs an oil that can handle low temperatures and quickly flow to critical engine parts on those icy mornings. A full synthetic oil such as Mobil 1 is ideal for the winter months; it's designed to flow well even in lower temperatures and is an excellent overall engine oil. (For more information, go to

  • Crank up the heat. Don't wait until the first time you need to warm up to turn on your heater and defroster. At that point, if the system isn't working, it's too late. So, test all the settings before winter weather strikes. If anything is amiss, fix it immediately, before you really need it. Also, don't wait to turn on the heat in cold weather when starting the car. Allowing for a slow warm-up helps prevent cracks from expanding in your windshield.

  • Keep Fuel in the Tank. Never allow the fuel tank to drop below the half-full mark. A sudden storm with unexpected heavy snowfall could leave you stranded for hours. Having an adequate fuel supply will allow you to idle the engine from time to time to keep warm.

"Your car will be a more dependable throughout the cold winter months if properly cared for," says Combs. "And in the winter, there are few things more bitter than a troublesome car."

For more information on vehicle maintenance, visit