Rotate your tires and have the alignment checked. It isn't cheap, but the reasoning behind this practice is that it keeps all four tires from wearing down in the same spot over time. In other words, mixing up the tires keeps the tread depth and pattern "continually changing and fresh," Smyth says, adding that if the tires are never changed or aligned, they develop uneven tread, which "hampers your vehicle's ability to grip the road and maintain control."
Change your windshield wiper fluid. "There are 'summer blends' and 'winter blends' that each have different compositions," Smyth says. The summer blend is mostly made up of water; alcohol is added to the winter blend, making your washer fluid "less likely to freeze as it hits your windshield," he says.
Even better, Smyth adds, buy a winter blend solvent that contains de-icing properties.
Pack your car. If you know you'll be driving in snow or ice, it's a good idea to load the car with items you may need if the worst happens.
Particularly if you live in a remote area, Walker suggests you pack your car with tire chains, warm boots, a jacket, blanket and gloves. If you're really concerned, he suggests including a shovel, flares, a cell phone charger and extra cash. He also recommends a fire starter and a ration of food.
And, of course, if you don't already have jumper cables in your trunk, you might as well add those to your list.
"Water and food certainly would have been helpful," concedes Bauer of his experience. "As would have been a tool kit to break through the windows. And perhaps a passenger who wasn't such a backseat driver."
You might also consider keeping some cat litter in your trunk – a suggestion offered up by LeeAnn Shattuck, a race car driver and the owner of Women's Automotive Solutions, a car buying service for women based in Fort Mill, S.C.
Shattuck, who grew up in Ohio and Wisconsin, "where winter lasts about half the year," says she always carried a 25-pound bag of cat litter in the back of her car – regular litter, not the scoopable kind.
"If you get stuck on some ice or snow, put a cup or two of cat litter under your drive wheels. It gives you traction to get unstuck," Shattuck says. "It's much more effective and safer than sand."