Make your car safe for winter driving

Every year 200,000 car crashes happen in wintry conditions. Consumer Reports says one of the best ways to stay safe on slick roads is to prep these things on your car.

First, check the battery. Cold weather affects battery performance -- so make sure the contacts are tight and free of corrosion. You should check your battery every 4 years to see if it needs to be replaced. And while your hood is popped, top off your washer fluid. You’ll need it to keep mud, salt, and ice from obstructing your view. Make sure you’re using ‘winter formula’ so the tank and nozzle won't freeze. Now check the pressure on your tires. Cold weather can decrease air pressure, which can affect your car’s handling and traction.

Consumer Reports tire experts say you can check the treads on all of your tires using a quarter. If you can see the top of George Washington’s head when you put it into a groove in the tread, it’s time to consider buying a new set. And winter tires might be a good investment. Consumer Reports' tire tests show winter tires provide an added margin of grip to stop, start, and corner far better than typical all-season tires on snow. Consumer Reports' top picks for winter tires are the Michelin X-Ice XI-3 and Nokian Hakkapeliitta R2.

Consumer Reports also warns not to be lulled into a false sense of security with a car that has all-wheel drive. While 4-wheel drive can help get your car going in snowy conditions, all cars have 4 wheel brakes.

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