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Winter-proof your vehicle - before winter is here

(Nov. 28, 2011) — Driving in the winter poses special challenges for everyone. Ice, snow and the cold require motorists to exercise care even before they hit the road. Here are some suggestions from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to help you prepare for winter driving.

Winterize your car

Your car needs some extra care before the harsh weather sets in. Get a tune-up, paying special attention to your heater, defroster, windshield wipers and fluid, battery and brakes. Also, make sure that your tires are appropriate for winter driving. At the very least, make sure your tires have adequate air pressure and tread depth. The minimum tread for adequate traction is one-sixteenth of an inch.

Drive appropriately for the conditions

  • Check weather reports before you travel to determine if it's safe to drive. If the weather is bad and you must go out, strongly consider public transportation.
  • Avoid the build-up of carbon monoxide in your car and home. Don't let your car run while parked in the garage, and remove any snow that accumulates near the vehicle's exhaust pipe.
  • Clear all snow, ice and fog from your windows before driving.
  • Drive slowly, and take corrective steering and breaking action gradually.
  • Turn on your headlights. This will not only improve your visibility, but also make yourself more visible to other motorists.
  • Use well-traveled routes and let others know your expected arrival time.
  • Remember that bridges become slick before roads do in cold conditions, and snow becomes more slippery as the weather gets warmer.

Create a car emergency kit

An emergency kit can mean the difference between being stranded and arriving safely at your destination. Include gloves, an ice scraper, a flashlight with extra batteries, a cell phone, a first-aid kit, jumper cables, snow chains (if permitted in your state), sand or kitty litter for traction and a small shovel.

The kit can also be vital to your survival if you become stranded. Rope for a lifeline, waterproof matches and candles, drinking water, snacks, blankets and warning devices like flares and reflectors can keep you safe and comfortable until help arrives.

Based in Madison, Wis., American Family Insurance offers auto insurance, homeowners insurance, life insurance, health insurance, business and farm/ranch insurance in 19 states. American Family Mutual Insurance Company is the nation's third-largest mutual property/casualty insurance company. Web:; Facebook:; Twitter: