Is your vehicle prepared for wintertime driving?

The answer to that question will likely be a confident, "yes," if all the items on the list below are checked, and necessary maintenance performed. Some of the items listed below will require assistance from a professional mechanic, although many may easily be performed by car owners themselves. A few other service items may require a more experienced do-it-yourselfer.Will it Freeze Up?

- Check radiator coolant. Does it contain enough anti-freeze to protect the engine to 20 degrees below zero?

- Check radiator cap. It must hold pressure.

- Check pressure. Test cooling system with pressure to determine if any leaks are present.

- Check windshield washer reservoir to be sure it has proper anti-freeze. Pour gas treatment into fuel tank during particularly cold times to prevent fuel-line freeze-up.

Will it start?

- Check the battery. If it is not a maintenance-free battery, check the fluid level and fill it if necessary.

- Test battery for charge; some of its power may have eroded away.

- Check the battery cables. Clean any corrosion from connections to battery terminals If cables are frayed, replace them.

- Tune engine. Ignition system, including spark plugs, timing, distributor and coil, and spark plug wires must be functioning properly for sure starts.

Will it stop...and go?

- Check brakes. Examine brake linings, pads, drums, discs, etc., for wear or degradation.

- Check brake fluid. Level should be 1/4-inch from top of reservoir.

- Check tires. Safe motoring and reliable traction are dependent on quality of tire tread. There should be no excessive wear, cuts, or other abrasions. Consider replacing tires with new snow tires or all-season radials.

- Check tire pressure. Owner's manual will provide proper tire pressure for your car.

Will you be able to see and be seen?

- Check all lights. (low and high beam), tail lights, brake lights, parting lights, instrument panel lights, emergency warning flashers, and all turn signal lights must be functioning.

- Check windshield wipers. They should be working and able to clear moisture without streaking, skipping or smearing. If not, replace them. Consider installing "winter blades." a specially designed wiper for use in snow and ice conditions.

- Check windshield washer system. Washer pump should be working and reservoir filled with anti-freeze fluid. Clean windows and mirrors. Visibility is essential in safe driving. After a snowfall, be sure snow is brushed off all parts of car, including all lights..

Will it keep you Warm?

- Check heater. Be sure controls, fan, and other parts of the system are operating.

- Check engine hoses. They should be firm, but flexible, with no cracks, bulges or soft spots.

- Check connections for leaks.

- Check belts. When pushed with a finger, they should not " give" more than half an inch. They should show no signs of fraying, wear or age.

Will it waste gasoline?

- Check spark plugs. If they are worn or have dirty deposits on firing end, replace them.

- Check gap on each to determine if it meets your car's specifications.

- Check air filter and PCV valve. Hold filter up to sunlight; if light cannot be seen through, replace it. PCV valve also requires periodic replacement.

- Clean and adjust automatic choke, if equipped.

- Check fuel filter. Tune engine. This includes inspection of points (if equipped), spark plug wires, and distributor cap, and adjustments of timing and carburetor idle settings.

Are its inner workings lubricated?

- Check oil. Examine dipstick and fill if necessary. Change oil at mileage listed in owner's manual. Especially for winter, consider changing to lighter weight oil for improved cold-weather starting. Replace oil filter when recommended in owner's manual.

- Check transmission fluid. Check level when engine is running and warm and gearshift is in park.

Who will it handle?

- Check shock absorbers or struts. Worn-out shocks alter a car's handling characteristics, making the ride less comfortable, increasing tire wear, and proving possibly dangerous on winter roads.

- Check universal joints, tire rod ends, ball joints and steering linkage. Failure of any of these can lead to an accident.

- Check wheel alignment. Problems can lead to steering difficulty and prematurely worn tires. Many newer cars require alignment service on all four wheels.

- Check power steering fluid. Examine dipstick when engine is warm.

Is it prepared for an emergency?

- Collect an emergency survival kit. Carry a set of battery jumper cables. Check emergency flasher lights.