It’s getting colder, and while you may love the winter weather, your car probably won’t. While all cars are ostensibly made to be driven all year round, the fact is that some are definitely harder to drive as winter weather sets in. Furthermore, no matter how equipped a car is to travel through the winter, that doesn’t mean that you will know how to do so yourself. This is especially true for those who haven’t lived in a colder area before, and are used to driving during mild winters. While it’s true that some states present different weather issues themselves, especially those more prone to rain, there is something different about harsh winter weather. Its risks are exacerbated by the fact that, if a car is damaged or unable to drive through something like snow, a driver could end up stuck and waiting for a rescue. In the midst of freezing temperatures, this could not only be dangerous but life-threatening.

Driving during the winter in areas prone to severe weather can be difficult, but it’s far from impossible and doable for the vast majority of young drivers. It just takes a combination of driving a safe and reliable vehicle and learning how to drive reactively in the area. With that being said, let’s look into how you can best set yourself up for success when driving through cold weather.

1. Start Strong

You need to first prep your car and make sure that it’s ready for the winter weather before you even hit the road. A lot of cars can actually be damaged by cold weather even as they sit idle, as many a frustrated driver will discover when they attempt to start up a frosty car. During cold weather, you’ll probably want to head out to your car early before beginning a trip, as it’s quite possible that your windshield and windows will be caked with ice. Clear out your windshield first, but don’t forget your rearview windows. Though using warm water to melt the ice, as well as simply scraping the ice off, isn’t difficult, you can speed the process along by warming your car preemptively. However, you shouldn’t ever leave your car running in your garage, as this could eventually cause carbon monoxide poisoning. Periodically, check your car’s oil viscosity. It’s not unusual for viscosity to increase within 10% of the new oil’s viscosity, but anything beyond that should be further examined. Don’t hit the road if the weather seems too harsh; some storms aren’t worth challenging.

2. Ready Your Car

No matter what you do to make your car ready for the road on the day of, you should also be prepared to essentially armor it against winter. Every car will vary in terms of its natural winter preparedness; for example, trucks may be considered more winter-ready than minivans, but they also take longer to stop, with those traveling 65 miles per hour taking up to two football fields to come to a halt, which could be devastating on ice. But in general, you should check your battery ahead of the winter, as it may be more prone to issues during cold weather. Furthermore, you should check your cooling systems and check your tires’ pressure. If the tires aren’t winter-friendly, switch them out for those that are, and furthermore check your windshield wipers and wiper fluid. Your gas tank needs to be kept at least halfway, in order to keep it from freezing. With these steps in mind, you will be able to keep your car as safe as possible as you head into the winter.

3. Drive Carefully

It may seem obvious that you should drive carefully. But many people aren’t aware of the full risks that come with driving in the winter and drive similarly to the way that they would during the summer. However, it’s estimated that roughly 21% of all car crashes in the United States are somehow affected by the weather. This means that you need to drive differently during the winter. For one thing, if you’re reliant on cruise control, you need to think about changing that around a bit. Due to the icy roads potentially throwing off your system’s sensors, cruise control isn’t as reliable during the wintertime. For that matter, you should make sure that you’re steering in the direction of the skid. This will prevent the need to overcorrect if your car skids a little, and will be more likely to stay in your lane. If possible, you shouldn’t stop when driving uphill, and for that matter should accelerate and decelerate slowly. All of these considerations will make it easier for you to drive safely during the winter. Generally speaking, you’ll need to break yourself of some warm weather habits that may be easier for you to get away with during the summer and the spring. If you’re like 86% of drivers, you believe that it’s safe to drive at least 10 miles over the speed limit on the highway. This isn’t wise during the winter, not when it’s easier for you to slide out of control on the road.

4. Consider Where You’re Driving

You need to really think before you hit the road if the weather is particularly snowy or icy. And even if you do drive anyway, you should furthermore think about where you’re driving. If your preferred drive involves back roads in the countryside, where things are more remote and more difficult for the police to access, you should think again. If it’s possible that you could get stuck on the side of the road in the snow without cell phone service, you shouldn’t drive in that area. For that matter, consider driving in areas wherein you know the city has been salting the road to prevent ice problems.

Driving in winter weather doesn’t have to be difficult; you just need to be careful about how you do it. With that in mind, drive safe!