When temperatures plummet, you need to be sure your car is prepared. A little extra care can make a world of difference when it comes to getting the best performance out of your automobile. Here’s a checklist to help ensure your vehicle is prepared for winter weather driving.

Change the Oil

If temperatures in your area dip below freezing, Dmv.org points out that it’s important to make sure you’re using the proper oil for a winter climate. Oil tends to become thicker in colder weather, and as AOL Autos notes, this thicker oil will not circulate and lubricate the engine as well as it should. However, because every car is different, it’s important to consult your owner’s manual and your mechanic to determine if your car requires a seasonal change of oil.

Check the Battery

According to Bankrate.com, a dead battery is one of the most common service issues drivers face in winter, and the cause can be traced to cold-weather oil performance. Thicker oil makes it harder for the engine to do its job, which in turn puts more strain on the battery, causing its capacity to drop around 30 percent. Since batteries typically last around three to five years, it makes sense to plan on changing out your older battery before the winter months roll around.

Examine the Tires

One of the most important aspects of your winterizing checklist is making sure your tires are capable of handling icy, slippery road conditions. At the very least, check your tire pressure and make sure your tread is at a safe level. You may also want to consider changing over to winter tires. Drivers have many options when it comes to choosing winter tires, and according to MSN Autos, new technologies—such as a single-season rubber compound that remains soft and allows the tires to conform to the road even in harsh temperatures­—help your tires perform better on the road. Making this seasonal change also minimizes wear and tear on warm-weather or all-season tires, saving you money in the long run.

As DMV.com points out, if you live in a cold-weather region, buying a set of winter tires can dramatically improve your car’s handling.

Give Your Windshield the All-Clear

While having a solid ice scraper on hand is a given in any cold-weather climate, there are a few other considerations to make when you’re prepping your car for winter. Be sure to inspect your wiper blades, because if they’re worn, you could find yourself riding blind. According to Yahoo Autos, most experts suggest replacing wiper blades every six to twelve months. Also make sure that your wiper fluid is full. It may be wise to choose a fluid that’s mixed with a de-icer to prevent ice from forming on your windshield.

Bring the Heat(er)

It goes without saying that nobody wants to drive a car that’s an icebox on wheels, but it’s not just your comfort level that’s a concern when you’re driving around without a working heater and defroster. As Bankrate.com points out, you should look for any leaks in your heating system that could cause dampness, which in turn will create steam, impairing your visibility while driving. It’s also crucial to make sure that your car can produce enough heat to keep frost from forming on the windows.

Fill Your Gas Tank

Sometimes it’s just that simple. A less-than-full gas tank plus falling temperatures can create condensation according to Bankrate.com. If this condensation reaches the fuel line and freezes, then you’re stuck with a car that won’t start. So make it a habit to keep your fuel level well above the red zone.

Be Prepared for Anything

No matter how well you plan, there’s always the possibility of finding yourself in an emergency situation. It’s important to stock your car with things that could come in handy any time of year, let alone in winter. According to DMV.com, your car kit should include the necessities to keep your car running properly, such as:

  • A spare tire
  • Engine oil
  • Washer fluid
  • Coolant

Also consider including items for your comfort and safety, such as:

  • A pair of boots
  • Blankets
  • A radio
  • A flashlight
  • A cellphone
  • Flares

Bankrate.com adds that you should have reusable heat packs, sand or cat litter for added traction (should you get stuck), a first aid kit, and even granola bars.

With a little thought and planning, you can have peace of mind knowing your car is prepared for anything winter has in store.

Do you have more tips on winterizing your car? Share with us in the comments section below.