Winterizing your vehicle and putting together an emergency car kit

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - Every year, millions of drivers are stranded because their car breaks down during the cold winter months.

Sometimes it's because of an accident.  Other times the breakdowns happen because a car is not properly maintained.  Whatever the case, there are important precautions to take and some items to take with you.

"I like coming here, because it's fast, efficient and it really stretches my dollar.  It's about $45 on average to winterize my vehicle.  But again, there's always a coupon to make it lower," said Abigail Grant, a customer at Brownsburg Jiffy Lube.

Outside the Brownsburg Jiffy Lube the sign reads, "Is your car winter ready?"

It's estimated 30 percent of cars on American roads are not properly prepared for winter conditions, but it's getting better.  Something else that has also changed is the fact it's no longer mainly men who get their vehicles serviced.  According to Jiffy Lube, 52% of their customers are women, and they are making sure they are covered before they hit the road.

"We do brakes, tires, tune-ups, battery and fluid checks and changes, along with a lot of minor repairs. And in the old days, it was kind of the man taking care of things, but it's not that way anymore.  It's the 21st century, said Lonnie Hinkle, Jiffy Lube's chief operating officer.

Here are some 21st century emergency items you should consider having in your vehicle.  Start with a waterproof flashlight, an ice scraper and tire pressure gauge.

"Kitty litter and a small shovel are two more must-haves.  With the small shovel, you can dig your way out of snow and that kitty litter gives you some traction once it's put down," said Hinkle.

The list of emergency items continues with these things. You should have gloves for working in the cold, or in your engine bay if needed, or to change a tire.  You may also want a tow rope or strap so someone can pull your car out if you get stuck. Rain gear is also a must because it doesn't take long to get drenched standing outside in the elements.

"This tip doesn't cost a thing.  It's always a good idea to look where you park.  You never know, you might see some power steering fluid, or some oil, or antifreeze or even transmission fluid on the ground.  It's just generally a good idea to look at where you park and see what's on the ground to make sure your fluids stay inside your car," said Hinkle.

These winter tips and ideas are practical, but people often don't heed the warning until it's too late.  Abigail has been fortunate enough to not have major problems on the road, but much of that is because she learned her lesson early on.

"I've had a sibling who did not take care of her vehicle and it ended up with a blown engine.  I was a teenager and that stuck with me.  That basically caused my sister to have to get a new car," she said.

It doesn't cost much to get an oil check-up or change, and it could prevent you from having a blown engine. A blown engine, on the other hand, could cost thousands of dollars to fix.  And don't just think you can put any oil in your vehicle.  In today's day and age, cars have very specific tolerances.  At Jiffy Lube, it's like going to a restaurant where they have a myriad of beer taps to choose from.  In this case, there are more than a dozen oils on tap, and others in canisters for your specific vehicle.  Make sure you know the right oil if you're doing it yourself.  If not, the mechanic will be able to tell by looking at the oil cap or the owners manual.

"In some vehicles, you may need to change the oil in the cold months.  It's possible you need that oil to be a little thinner at initial start up to be able to get to all the vital engine parts quickly," said Hinkle.

The final things you should have in your car is water to drink if you get stranded, maybe some nonperishable food like granola bars, warm blankets, a first aid kit, fire extinguisher, triangle reflector and jumper cables.  Make sure you know how to properly use the jumper cables because batteries can die faster than expected in the cold and you need to be prepared.

Don't forget to make sure your tires are properly inflated.  That number on the sidewall of your tire is for the maximum air pressure.  Don't use that number to fill it up.  The actual amount is found in your doorjamb and will likely be several pounds of pressure lower than the max.   Inadequate tire pressure can cause more than just an annoying warning light to go off--it can decrease your fuel economy and prematurely wear down your tires.  All these tips should make your winter driving much more stress free.

"Again this is a time saver coming here, so it feels like I am stretching my dollar because I get to spend more time with my family," said Abigail.

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