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Below are the guidelines for preparing you car for the cold weather:

Radiator coolant: read the label on your antifreeze to be sure you make the right blend of water and antifreeze. The antifreeze keeps your radiator from freezing and cracking; the water, even in winter, keeps your car from overheating.

Battery condition: Your car needs three to four times more starting power in winter than in summer. Have a mechanic do a complete battery draw-and-load test. If your battery fails, a recharge may save it for another year; otherwise, invest in a new one.

Windshield washer fluid: Frozen fluid in the washer tank is dangerous. Use a premixed commercial fluid, check that the hoses are clear, and clean the washer nozzles out with a thin piece of wire.

Electrical system: Make sure the distributor cap, points, condenser, ignition coil, spark plugs, and spark-plug cables are in good shape. Borderline components that still function in summer will give out in cold weather.

Hoses and belts: If they are cracking or fraying, replace them.

Tires: If you have all-season tires, be sure the tread is still good enough to give you traction on slippery roads. Otherwise, put on snow tires. Important: If you have a front-wheel-drive car, the snow tires go on the front. Store summer tires on their sides, not on the tread (storing on the tread causes a flat spot and an unbalanced tire).

Windshield: Apply anti-fogging compound to the inside.

Cleaning: Clear dead bugs off the radiator by hosing it from the inside of the engine compartment. Pick out the dead leaves and debris from the fresh-air intake box of the ventilation.

Stock up: Buy flares, an aerosol wire-dying agent, a scraper and brush, chains, and a military-style collapsible trench tool for emergencies. Keep a lock de-icer at home and/or at the office.