We all know that low temperatures, dirt and road salt residue can wreak havoc on your vehicle. However, just a little preparation and maintenance can help keep your car in shape throughout the long winter.

Visibility is vital. Check your windshield wipers and replace them if they show any signs of cracking or stiffness. If your vehicle is parked outside, be sure lift the wipers before an overnight snow, helping to prevent them from freezing to the windshield. You can expect to use your wipers a lot, so keep the washer fluid reservoir filled with a solution that contains an antifreeze agent (water alone can freeze in the lines). Always use a brush and a scraper to remove snow and ice from your windshield. Make sure your heater is working, and that warm air is directed to the windshield when in defrost mode. Always check to make sure that your lights are working properly and clear of ice and snow.

Iif you drive a lot in slippery conditions, it might be advisable to consider switching to a winter tire; they have tread patterns and rubber compounds designed to provide the best possible traction on slick roads. If you do choose winter tires, think about mounting them on inexpensive steel wheels. Not only will this make it make it easier to switch between the two sets of tires, but it can also help save your expensive alloy wheels from the damage winter conditions can inflict.

It’s important to keep your battery in good shape. Add distilled water to conventional batteries if the fluid level is low. With maintenance-free batteries, examine the window at the top to make sure that it’s indicating a fully-charged state.

While most cars use a multi-weight oil that is suitable for a range of temperatures, never hurts to check the owner’s manual and see if your manufacturer recommends a specific grade of oil for low temperatures. In case of extremely low temperatures, it might be advisable to install an engine block heater.

When the engine is cold, check your cooling system hoses for cracking, leaking or contamination. The cooling system usually should be flushed every two years on most vehicles; if yours needs flushing soon, try to have it done before winter hits.

Lubricating the locks with a silicone spray or door-lock lubricant will help keep water from getting in and then freezing. If they have frozen, a lock antifreeze product will help thaw them.

Protect the car’s paint coat with a fresh coat of wax now, and then regularly washes during the winter. Don’t forget to wash the wheel wells and underbody, in order to prevent road salt from building up. If your vehicle doesn’t have floor mats, pick up some inexpensive ones. They’ll help protect the carpet from water and mud that will get tracked into the vehicle.

Letting your engine warm up before you drive away allows the oil a chance to heat up and flow more smoothly. Drive gently until the temperature gauge starts to rise, or the cold engine light goes out. Remember, cars can still overheat in winter, especially if snow is clogging the radiator grille.

Contact the Service Department at Rinaldi Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram to schedule a service appointment. Our certified technicians will make sure your vehicle is ready for winter’s rigors.