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For many of us, fall is the best season of all. It offers cooler days and crisp evenings, pumpkins and hot chocolate, football and food-filled holidays, multi-colored foliage and long, relaxing drives. Fall also makes us forget: it’s such a pleasant season that we tend to forget how close winter is.

This season really is the vestibule of winter. You need to prepare your car for fall in order to have a jump on winter preparations. Here, according to the experts, are the main things you should doe.

Check/Change All the Fluids

Fluids are as important for your car as they are for your body. Make a point to check the windshield washer fluid, brake fluid, power-steering fluid, transmission, and, especially, the coolant. After you’ve had the oil changed (with the right viscosity for the coming cold weather), it’s a good idea to check the oil level every time you fill up with gas.

Keeping the coolant topped off is important because in the fall it’s not all that unusual to have 80+ degrees one day and then near-freezing temps a couple of days later. Better yet is to drain your radiator in the fall and fill it with new coolant. Keep in mind too that you should use a mixture of water and antifreeze of about 40:60 – that is, 40% water and 60% antifreeze.

Check the Tires

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Those few square inches of tire rubber that make contact with the road are critical, especially if you encounter one of those freak fall snow storms. Be sure, then, to check the tread to ensure that it’s still deep enough to keep you and your family safe on the road. The tread depth can be easily checked with a penny. Just insert the penny upside down into the tread groove. If you are able to see all of Lincoln’s head, then it’s time to replace the tires. Also, to ensure optimum handling and safety, keep your tires inflated to the manufacturer’s specifications.

Check the Wiper Blades

Of course, we never think about wiper blades till we need them the most – when we get a little moisture on the windshield, turn on the wipers, and get nothing but vision-obscuring smears. Even if you seldom use your wipers and think they’re in good shape, they may not be. That summer sun is deadly to the rubber in wiper blades. When fall rolls around then – before good wiper blades become essential for safety in winter driving – replace those blades. It’s easy to do, just taking a few minutes. If you’d rather not do it yourself, the employees at your local auto supply store will usually be glad to do it for you free of charge.

Be Prepared

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Driving with peace of mind, with no worries because you’re prepared – that’s the only way to do it. So when you decide to prepare your car for fall, go ahead and do just one more thing. Prepare for the worst.

That means packing an emergency roadside kit to help you make it through when everything goes wrong. The basic items you’ll need (but you can include many more like granola bars, flashlight, and flares) are jumper cables, extra coolant/water, extra motor oil, water for drinking, and blankets/warm clothing. Don’t forget to check the spare tire, as well making sure you have a good jack and lug wrench.

Now, get out there and enjoy the best season with peace of mind!