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How to keep your car running through the winter

February 5, 2016
Keeping your car healthy through the winter is no easy task.

The groundhog may not have seen his shadow this year, but many parts of the country will still experience at least a few more cold weeks. Anyone who lives in a cold-weather state knows driving in winter conditions is no easy feat. If your car is showing signs of winter wear and tear, there is a lot you can do to keep it in optimal shape.

What you should do In colder temperatures, you car battery is at greater risk of dying. If the battery is old, it will be more likely to fail. The Chicago Tribune recommended replacing it every three to five years—three if you drive often, and five if you rarely do. The Tribune also suggested keeping the battery warm overnight by wrapping it in a blanket. You can protect the battery with a plastic sheet or tarp you can find at your local auto parts store. If you do decide to wrap the battery overnight, you must be absolutely sure to remember to remove the blanket, sheet or tarp in the morning before turning the car back on. Otherwise your car could catch fire.

Pep Boys emphasized the importance of replacing your windshield wipers if they are not working properly. The moment they begin leaving streaks on your windshield, it's time to replace them. This is important in any season, as each time of year brings with it different natural elements that can impair your vision.

"Check the tire pressure every morning before getting behind the wheel.”

In addition, make sure you have a tire gauge to consistently check your tire pressure. Robert Sinclair, a spokesman for AAA, told CNN that even a car with a tire pressure monitoring system is not the most dependable. The alert light will only turn on after the tires have already reached an unsafe pressure. You should be able to find your car's target tire pressure written on the driver's side door of the car or in the owner's manual.

John Ibbotson, a workshop supervisor at Consumer Reports' Connecticut test track, told CNN drivers should check the pressure every morning before getting behind the wheel. In addition, they should make sure to test the pressure when the tires are cold. That target pressure written on the car is not applicable when tires are warm.

What you should not do While it is far more pleasant to hop into a car that's been warming up in the driveway, letting your car idle is detrimental to the vehicle. Not only is it a waste of gas, but it can also weaken the engine. The Tribune recommended driving slowly until the car gets warm. The car will actually warm up faster while it's moving—just make sure not to speed up too quickly. If the cold is extreme, let the car idle for about two minutes.

According to The Weather Channel, avoid pouring hot water over your windshield to melt ice, as the contrast in temperatures can crack the windshield. While driving, never speed in wet, icy or snowy conditions. You never know where black ice may be hiding. Finally, never slam on the breaks. You are highly likely to lose control of the car. Safety is the number one reason to drive carefully in winter, but avoiding accidents will also help keep your auto insurance rates low.