Winterizing Cars Doesn't Have to Break the Bank

By Dee-Ann Durbin, AP Auto Writer

DETROIT (AP) — You don't need to spend a lot to get your car ready for winter's tough conditions.

Cold temperatures are hard on engines, tires and even gas tanks. As you prepare to navigate icy roads, you can easily spend $500 on snow tires and a tuneup. But there are other steps you can take to make things easier on your car, and your wallet.

Here are 10 tips for winterizing on a budget.

Check your tire pressure. Properly inflated tires not only increase traction on snowy, icy roads, but they'll also help prevent damage from potholes. You should also check your tires for wear with a depth gauge — you can get one for about $5 — or with the wear indicators on the tires.

Replace your wiper blades. Don't wait until a driving snowstorm to find out your wiper blades aren't working. Carl Scavotto, manager of the training center for the Meineke car care chain, suggests winter wiper blades, which have thicker squeegees and rustproof covers. They cost around $12 apiece. While you're at it, make sure your wiper fluid reservoir is full.

Check your battery. The engine has to work harder in the winter, which puts pressure on the battery, and corrosion can wear it down even further. If you see a white, powdery substance around the battery's clamps and cables, clean it with a mixture of baking soda and water and put some petroleum jelly on the battery terminals to prevent further corrosion. "That can be dirty, but it's really easy to do yourself," said Rik Paul, automotive editor of Consumer Reports.

Get an oil change. The colder the oil is, the thicker it will be, and thicker oil doesn't circulate well in the engine. Scavotto suggests a lighter grade oil in the winter so it flows more smoothly. An oil change costs around $30.

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