Winter-proof your vehicle on a budget

With snow and and cold weather rapidly approaching in mid-Missouri, there are several economical ways to prepare your vehicle for the winter season.

Regardless of what type of vehicle you own, these low-cost steps could help prevent big repair bills:

- Check your charging system to make sure your battery is in good shape. Batteries have to work harder in lower temperatures; not having one that will withstand cold weather could mean becoming stranded in a snowstorm.

- Inspect your tires to make sure they have enough tread to get through an icy winter season. Not having enough traction on your tires could lead to a wreck. Even though replacing tires can be pricey, the cost of replacing vehicle tires is generally less than repairing one that has skidded off the road.

- Change your oil, inspect oil filter. Generally, conventional oil should be changed every 3,000 miles. You may be able to wait longer if you use more expensive synthetic oil, but make sure yours is changed before the cold hits.

- Inspect your vehicle's windshield wipers to make sure they will adequately deflect rain and snow.

- Inspect the engine belts and hoses to check for signs of obvious damage.

- Get any major vehicle repairs done before the winter season hits.

- Check your vehicle's lights to make sure they are in working order.

- Keep your vehicle clean when it snows or after plows clear streets. Sand, dirt, and gravel can damage your vehicle's paint job or lead to corrosion.

- Prepare an emergency kit. Be sure to include a blanket, a flashlight with batteries, emergency food and water, flares, a 'help' sign, and first-aid.