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Driving during the winter is often much more treacherous than driving during any other time of the year due to black ice, snow, strong winds and below-freezing temperatures. To keep you and your passengers safe and your car in good shape, it's important to know these winter driving tips, especially when using car rental services in an unfamiliar town.

Check Your Antifreeze

The number-one way to keep your car in shape during winter driving is to make sure that your radiator has plenty of antifreeze. If the water in your car's radiator freezes, it can crack the radiator and make it leak. Antifreeze keeps the water in your radiator from freezing, which can save you a lot of money in repair bills.

You can take your car to a professional to get it topped off with antifreeze, or you can do it at home by buying a tester kit for a couple of dollars at your local auto parts store and maintaining the antifreeze level yourself.

Wash Your Undercarriage

Another good tip for wintertime car maintenance is to make sure you wash your car on a regular basis. The salt used to melt ice on the roads can corrode the metal on your car, leaving damage or even holes. Choose car washes that have undercarriage washes to wash off all the salt underneath your car.

Pack an Emergency Kit

You never know when you may be stuck on the side of the road without help. That's when a winter emergency kit comes in handy. According to the Washington State Department of Transportation, your winter driving kit should include:

  • Jumper cables
  • A battery-powered AM/FM radio
  • Blankets
  • A flashlight with extra batteries
  • A first-aid kit
  • Food and water
  • One fold-up shovel for digging snow away from tires
  • One bag of cat litter or sand for traction if you become stuck in the snow
  • A windshield ice scraper
  • An extra set of warm cloths, including a coat, gloves, boots and a hat

It's also a good idea to keep two bottles of tire sealant in your trunk, such as Fix-a-Flat, in case you get a flat tire. Tire sealants will close most tire leaks and refill the tire with air.

Don't Forget Snow Chains

For most areas of the country, snow chains are always a good addition to your winter-driving preparation kit. Think of them as snowshoes for your car. They give your wheels extra traction so that you can stay on the road and avoid becoming lodged in a snowdrift.

Rent a Car for Long Trips

You should only take long car trips during the winter in a dependable vehicle. If your car is older or not in good condition, it's probably in your best interest to use a car from a car rental service. Try to rent a car that has the same size wheels as your personal car so that your snow chains will fit it as well. Also, don't forget to move your winter-driving emergency kit from your personal car to your rental car.

Use these tips for winter driving and car care so that you and your car are healthy and in good condition when springtime comes around.

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