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Winterizing Your Car

It certainly is cold in much of the country and driving through a winter season, which typically includes ice and snow, requires extra care for your car. So former car racer and automotive expert Trisha Hessinger visits CBS News The Early Show to keep your car running smoothly through the long winter months.

She also talks about some products that should always be brought along to ensure a safe journey or at least peace of mind.

The following are her recommendations:

The Engine - Vital fluids

Antifreeze - You want to be sure it's the correct mix of water and antifreeze. If you are in an area that is much more frigid, such as Minnesota, you need to have more antifreeze. Also, antifreeze doesn't last forever. Your mechanic can test your antifreeze to see if it's still good. If you haven't changed it in four or five years, you should consider it. The cooling system is also responsible for the heating of your car's interior.

Oil - We always need to check and change the oil every few thousand miles, but for winter, many manufactures recommend changing the oil to a lighter weight. That weight can be found in your manual. Hessinger recommends switching to a synthetic motor oil. More than 80 percent of engine damage happens during start-up. The benefit of synthetic is that it doesn't change in thickness. It does cost more, but its consistency is worth it.

Windshield Washer Fluid - Visibility is critical. With sand and salt coming off the road, you'll go through a lot of fluid. Keep it topped off and keep it 100 percent washer fluid. Don't mix it with water. Also, you should clean the wipers. To do so, just wipe them with a cloth doused with washer fluid. Grime builds up quicker in winter.

Brake Fluid - Take a quick look to make sure it is at the appropriate level. There is a hash mark to show you where it needs to be. Most of the fluid containers are also see through. You want to make sure the fluid is clear and not cloudy. Poor performance from your brakes could be the result of dirty fluid.

Battery - Many batteries have a window to see if there is fluid inside. If you have that kind, you can remove the caps to top it off. Use distilled water, if the water level is low. If your battery can not be accessed, there should be a light indicator that lets you know if it's holding a charge. Also, make sure to keep corrosion away from the terminals. Brushing the terminals with baking soda and water works best.

The Tires

The penny test is a good way to check if your tire tread is too worn. Place a penny with Lincoln going head first into the tread. If you can see the top of his head, it's time to get some new tires. As far as pressure is concerned, changing climates change a tire's pressure quite easily. A pressure check at least once a month is best. The proper pressure can be found on the tire's side-wall.

Products to keep in the trunk

It is important to keep a winter driving kit somewhere in the vehicle. It should include the following:

  • Jumper cables
  • Shovel (to dig out of snow)
  • Candle and matches
  • Blanket
  • Flashlight with batteries kept separately
  • Non-perishable food (power-bar)
  • Kitty litter for traction or a roofing shingle to place in front of a wheel for traction
  • Basic tool kit
  • Automobile club membership
  • Cell phone and its charger

For more information about Trishia Hessinger, visit and

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