While drivers know that every season presents driving challenges it’s fair to say that winter in Kansas presents the biggest. Falling temperatures, darker days, ice and even sometimes snow, present pretty tough challenges for both car and driver. That’s why Fall is a great time to ensure that your vehicle is ready for the cold weather challenges ahead. Here are some of the essential steps you should while the leaves are still falling:

Get Your Battery Checked

A vehicle’s battery is often one of those auto components that few people pay any attention to until it fails. As cold weather and car batteries are not exactly the best of friends in the first place, to have one die on you at the most inconvenient of times (often at 6 a.m. when it’s freezing cold and you were supposed to be at work in an hour) is far from unusual in winter. And if your battery was not in great shape in the first place, the likelihood of it happening increases. Getting your battery tested now will potentially save you from some real headaches this winter and most auto parts stores will do so for free.

You may also want to consider investing in a portable battery charger, to avoid having to rely on finding someone to give you a jump should the cold deaden your battery, which can happen to even a newer battery if the temps are very low.

Get Your Tires Checked

How well, and how safely, your vehicle navigates in winter conditions depends on a number of different factors but your tires are certainly one of the biggest. Now is the time to check to see if they still have enough tread to be truly functional in the rain, snow and ice that will inevitably challenge them over the next few months.

Don’t have a tire tread depth gauge handy? That’s OK, here’s a trick that even the pros use in a push; insert a penny into the tire tread grooves with Lincoln’s head facing down. If you can see the top of Lincoln’s head, your tires are at 2/32nds of an inch or less of remaining tread, meaning that they need to be replaced immediately.

While we are on the subject of tires tire pressure is something you’ll need to keep a closer eye on as the days – and nights – get colder. Air pressure in any tire can drop by 1-2 pounds for every 10 degree temperature drop so maintaining the correct pressures for your car is a little more of a challenge. Make sure that you have a portable tire gauge and plenty of quarters (for the air machine) in your glove compartment and you should be OK though.

Check Your HVAC System

Even if your A/C has been pumping out just fine all summer long an HVAC check is a good idea at this time of year as well, before you need to swap out cool for hot and begin blasting some heat. Not only is a cold car a misery to drive in a lack of a functioning heater can also cause problems when it comes to defrosting etc.

Make Sure you are Using the Right Washer Fluid

Once the temperatures drop water – and standard washer fluid – will quickly freeze on your windshield, leaving you with a nightmare driving scenario. If you don’t already now is the time to switch to a specialist cold weather washer fluid. Oh, and while you are under the hood it’s a good time to check all of your other essential fluids as well.

Assemble a Winter Emergency Kit

No one wants to ever think they might find themselves stranded out on the road during the winter but it does happen, and so carrying a basic winter emergency kit in your vehicle is another must. You can buy specialist prebuilt kits or assemble your own but either way all of the following should be included:

First-aid kit
Tire chains
Ice scraper/snowbrush
Jumper cables
Road flares.

Finally, the fall is a great time to take your vehicle in for a basic tune up. Doing so will not only make sure your car is really winter ready but doing so could also save you money too, by improving your gas mileage by up to 5%.

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