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Getting Your Car Ready for Winter

Getting Your Vehicle Ready for Winter Driving

In many parts of the country, holiday's mean winter weather. While a White Christmas may bring holiday cheer, it can also wreak havoc on our cars. This holiday season, remember that driving in inclement weather — be it snow, ice, rain, sleet or all of the above — takes skill, properly maintained vehicles and some extra help from special equipment like snow tires.

First, before the "Blizzard of '05" hits make sure your car is ready. By taking your car to a certified automotive technician, like those at a Firestone Tire and Service Center for a full check up, you'll make sure that the engine, battery, exhaust system and the heating and defrosting systems are in good working order. The technician will also check the vehicle's main fluids including engine oil, radiator coolant, brake, transmission, window washer and power steering fluids to make sure they are filled to the recommended levels and ready for the temperature drop.

If you're already on the road when bad weather hits, there are things you can do to keep yourself, passengers and other drivers safer on the road. Number one, slow down. Taking it slow not only gives you more time to stop, it also improves tire traction. Also, try to avoid abrupt movements when braking, accelerating or turning. If you feel your vehicle start to slide, gently take your foot off the accelerator and try to regain feeling of the road. Do not abruptly press on the brake pedal, or you could lose control of the car. Finally, always use your headlights to help other drivers see you.

In addition to proper maintenance and safe driving habits, outfitting your vehicle with the right tires and knowing how to maintain them for optimum performance is key to safer driving during the winter season. Poor traction in winter weather is frightening and dangerous. One way to avoid this is by furnishing your vehicle with a set of winter tires. Because high-performance tires built for average-weather driving conditions may not provide optimal traction on an icy road, investing in seasonal tires is your best bet.

Today's winter tires, such as the Bridgestone Blizzaks, are technologically advanced to handle harsh winter driving conditions, specifically snow and ice performance. Tires designed for winter driving have tread patterns and tread compounds that reduce the risk of slipping on the thin surface film of water that makes ice so dangerous. Another important component of winter tires is tread depth. Deeper treads provide greater traction by allowing tires to dig into the snow and propel your vehicle through it.

If you're wondering whether or not you need winter tires if your car boasts four-wheel drive, the answer is YES! Remember, the only part of your vehicle that touches the ground is the tire. In order to supplement the four-wheel drive feature of your vehicle, equip your car with winter tires to ensure the vehicle has the optimal winter performance it is designed to deliver.

In addition to installing winter tires, it is essential to make sure that they are properly inflated, rotated, aligned and replaced, as necessary. As outside temperatures drop, the air inside a tire contracts and the pressure is reduced. Therefore, it is imperative to check your tire pressure weekly during the colder months. Under-inflation will lessen the gripping action because the tread will not meet the road surface as it is designed to do; this also occurs with over-inflation. Tires should be checked when the vehicle has been driven less than a mile or, better yet, when it has not moved in more than three hours.

Follow these simple steps and the next time you get behind the wheel during a snow or ice storm, you will be pleasantly surprised by the improved driving control and the added security winter tires and the right maintenance can provide.