• Have your battery, tire pressure and antifreeze checked.
  • Make sure your wiper blades and tires are built to handle winter weather.
  • Create a safety kit so you can stay safe while you're treading through the snow.

Three years ago, I was a graduate student in Missouri, and I was bracing myself for an impending snowstorm — something that is a rarity in my home state of Oklahoma. I bought a heavy coat, boots, wool socks and even a cute, furry hat to sport around campus.

Unfortunately, in the midst of shopping for myself, I forgot to shop for my car. A couple days later, I found myself struggling to get home in six inches of snow. I had little to no gas, my phone’s battery was low and I only had a few bags of candy in the car to keep myself full. It took me six hours to get to my apartment, which was less than a mile away.

Since then, I’ve taken winter weather more seriously and have taken the steps to make sure I’m ready for snow, ice and whatever else the season throws my way.

Here’s a list of things you need to do and have in your car as the cold season sets in:

1. Have your battery, antifreeze levels and tire pressure checked.

If any of these three components go out, you may be forced to leave your car on the road or wait for a tow truck. Cold weather can easily short a weak battery and lower your tire pressure.

Go to a trusted mechanic or an auto store, such as O’Reilly or Auto Zone, to get your battery and tire pressure tested for free. If you can’t afford a new battery, you can get your current battery recharged, which can extend its life for up to a month or two.

Lastly, change your antifreeze if it’s more than five years old. Antifreeze will prevent your engine from freezing in cold temperatures.

If you’re not a car aficionado and can’t remember which components to get checked, simply ask for a winterized car check-up. Your mechanic will know what you need.

2. Replace wiper blades and get tires that are built for winter weather.

Make sure your wiper blades are strong enough to push away heavily packed snow. You may choose a standard pair, but consider purchasing ones made especially for the winter months.

Also, make sure your tires have the tread and traction to navigate snowy streets and hills. If you don’t have them already, get a set of all-season tires. They’ll get you through the worst of conditions.

3. Create a safety kit.

The worst part of my snowstorm ordeal wasn’t low tire pressure or faulty wiper blades, it was the fact that I didn’t have a kit to keep myself warm and full until help arrived. Here’s a list of items you’ll need to keep yourself safe:

  • A case of 6 to 12 water bottles
  • High-protein snacks that are guaranteed to keep you full, such as beef jerky, protein bars or a nut mix
  • Extra sets of gloves, wool socks and a pair of waterproof boots
  • A couple packs of hand warmers and insulated thermal blankets
  • Portable phone chargers
  • Flashlights
  • Gas can
  • Ice melt to help remove snow and ice from your tires
  • Cat litter to help with tire traction
  • A list of emergency numbers, such as the number for AAA or a trusted tow truck provider

All of these items can easily fit into a laundry basket to keep in your trunk throughout the season. Download a checklist to help you keep track.

What would you add to this list? Share in the comments below.

Email Marian McPherson.

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