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5 tips for preparing your car for a Connecticut winter

As cold weather sets in, drivers in Connecticut can take a few steps to ensure their vehicle is ready.

As anyone living here knows, Connecticut winters bring snow, ice and other unfavorable conditions to our roads. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration, roughly 22 percent of motor vehicle accidents are due to weather conditions. This results in thousands of deaths and hundreds of thousands of injuries every year.

Fortunately, there are some steps drivers can take to improve their safety. Doing the following to "winterize" a vehicle may prevent an accident or ease the process of being in one:

1. Take care of tires

One of the most important measures drivers can take year-round is to properly maintain the tires on a vehicle. This is especially important as weather worsens, as tires in poor condition cannot adjust to water, snow and ice on the road. Therefore, the following should happen:

  • Drivers should ensure tires are inflated appropriately.
  • People may want to consider getting winter or snow tires.
  • Tires with improper tread depth should be immediately replaced.

Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration suggests that drivers are three times more likely to be involved in an accident when their tires are underinflated by more than 25 percent.

2. Take it for a tune-up

An oil change may slip someone's mind, but basic maintenance such as this is imperative when weather changes. Drivers should visit a trusted mechanic who can inspect spark plugs, wires, belts, cables and hoses to ensure everything is working properly. A malfunction in any one of these areas could leave a driver stranded in the cold for a significant amount of time.

3. Put together a winter safety kit

Every car should have a basic safety kit, including fist aid supplies, flares and a flashlight. In winter, cars should also have items such as an ice scraper, nonperishable food, warm clothing and extra antifreeze. Jumper cables, shovels and matches are also good to have on hand in case of an emergency or motor vehicle accident.

4. Keep the tank half full

There are a couple of reasons that keeping plenty of gas in the tank is a good idea, aside from the fear of running out. First, having a tank that is at least half full can reduce the odds of the car's gas lines from freezing up. Secondly, if something does happen and the car cannot be driven, keeping the engine running may be the only way to keep warm.

5. Check the battery

Batteries do not always do well in extreme temperatures, which Connecticut may experience from time to time. A mechanic should inspect a car's battery to look for any possible breaks or cracks. The battery's charge should also be read, as cold weather reduces its capacity. There are products that are rated on cold cranking amps, which help the battery run properly in winter.

When accidents do happen, drivers should always know what to do, such as calling local law enforcement and their insurance company. Anyone who has questions about this topic should consult with a personal injury attorney in Connecticut.