In the winter, freezing temperatures and roads coated with salt can wreak havoc on your car, nevermind icy windshields, dead batteries, and cars that won’t start. Safe driving in all weather conditions can help you avoid car accidents and claims on your auto insurance policy, and some simple car maintenance and an emergency kit can help keep you safe on the roads and keep your car running through the rest of the season.

Winter car maintenance checklist

Winter is not the time to be thinking about saving money on your car maintenance. If you keep your car maintained throughout the year, you might be able to avoid more big-ticket car maintenance.

  • Change your wipers and refill your windshield washer fluid. During winter, you may want to consider using a washer fluid with an antifreeze solution that won’t ruin your paint job.
  • Check air pressure in your tires. The pressure in your tires will change with fluctuations in temperature, so be sure to monitor the pressure throughout the winter. In addition, depending on the weather where you live, you may want to switch to snow tires.
  • Get your oil changed if you’re due. Ask your mechanic or look in your manual to find out if you need to be using a different kind of oil in the winter.
  • Check and top off your fluids.
  • Have your battery serviced and tested.
  • Inspect cables for breaks.
  • Check terminals for loose connections.
  • Check ignition, brakes, wiring, hoses, fan belts, and spark plugs.
  • Check air, fuel, and emission filters.
  • Inspect the distributor.

Create a winter emergency kit

There’s a reason your car has a trunk, and it’s not to store 20 canvas shopping bags (or is that just my trunk?).
Consider stocking your trunk with the following items to help you handle an emergency situation:

  • Tool kit
  • First aid kit
  • High-energy foods like nuts and dried fruit
  • Bottled water
  • Jumper cables
  • Bag of salt or cat litter
  • Tire chains
  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • Reflective triangles
  • Blanket(s)
  • Ice scraper and snow brush

Whether or not you’re enjoying winter weather, don’t wait to find out if your car is enjoying it too. Protect your vehicle, protect yourself, and protect your passengers.

Linda Rey is a licensed insurance agent at Rey Insurance with a broad spectrum of expertise in life, accident, health, property and casualty insurance as well as retirement planning and college funding strategies.

Follow Linda on Twitter.