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Follow these winter car care tips to save money, energy and help the environment

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Winter cold and snow create difficult operating conditions for you and your automobile.

Besides performing routine maintenance and using quality products, this is the season for extra preparation and care. What can you do to get through the nastiest of conditions?

Routine maintenance: Make sure your battery and charging system are in good operating condition. A battery's cranking power is reduced significantly in freezing weather.

Be especially alert if your battery is 4 years old or more. It may work well only when the weather is warm. A good practice would be to carry a set of quality jumper cables at all times in the vehicle. There also are portable power packs available for use in emergency starts.

Filters, coolant and hoses: Make sure all filters — oil, gas and air — are in good condition. Check coolant and thermostat to ensure proper engine warmup, as well as heater and defroster operation. Coolant should be changed every two years; extended-life coolants last about five years. Check for leaking or soft hoses and replace.

Tire pressure: Check tires for excessive wear and proper inflation. Do not under-inflate or over-inflate your tires. Low-pressure increases wear and increases fuel consumption while over-pressure can reduce traction, especially in icy conditions.

Lubrication: To ease engine start-up load during cold weather, use a multi-viscosity oil such as 10W-30 or 15W-30, which helps provide car starts at temperatures down to 25 to 30 degrees below zero Fahrenheit or lower.

The use of these low-viscosity oils not only speeds startup, but helps reduce wear by flowing quickly to critical engine parts. The use of lower viscosity oils also helps improve fuel economy. Motor oil should be changed routinely to help prevent excessive moisture and fuel buildup in winter conditions.

Vehicle warmup: When starting a vehicle in cold weather allow the engine to idle for a few seconds before driving off to ensure proper oil flow and lubrication. Do not allow engine to idle for a prolonged period after start-up in cold weather.

This practice wastes fuel and does not warm up drive train components. After starts, drive easily for several miles to ensure proper vehicle warmup.

Slow down: Do not exceed speed limits and keep safe driving distances. Unnecessary speed up, slow downs and stops can decrease fuel economy by up to two miles per gallon.

Avoid gas-wasting, jack-rabbit starts and pace your driving to help avoid the need for sudden stops, which is especially critical during wet and icy road conditions.

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