Getting your vehicle ready for bad weather

Harsh winters can be tough on a car. If the weather doesn't get to it, the things we do to deal with the ice and snow often can. The two biggest winter-weather culprits? Moisture and salt.

Any time a car is subjected to very moist conditions, the process of corrosion begins. Moisture can seep into the microscopic cracks and dings in a car's finish and work against the paint from the inside out.

Moisture separates the paint from the metal and causes the metal to oxidize. Salt further accelerates the corrosive process by slowing down drying times and causing a chemical reaction with the metal body of a car.

One way to keep moisture and salt from eating away at a car's finish is to use a car cover for complete protection.

Because not all car covers are the same, experts say it's best to look for one made of fabric that combines both high water resistance and breathability. For instance, the Block-It(r) Fabric name on a cover is said to indicate the material was engineered to help a car survive in inclement weather.

Consider these additional winter-weather car-care tips, courtesy of Bobby Likis, host of the nationally syndicated radio program Bobby Likis Car Clinic:

• Make sure your car has an annual check-up. Just like most people, cars need to see the "doctor" once a year to take care of small problems before they become expensive nightmares.

• Avoid washing or waxing your car in very cold weather. Washing cold paint with hot water can send a car's paint job into "thermoshock" and create hairline cracks in its surface. Waxing at temperatures below 50 degrees F also may cause the wax to streak.

• Do wax your car once a season-ideally before the coldest weather hits. Instead of doing it yourself on a cold Saturday morning, treat yourself and your car to a professional wash and detailing.

• Install new wiper blades.

• Create a bad weather emergency kit for your car. Essential items include a well-charged cell phone, a properly inflated spare tire and jack, a tire inflator/sealer to seal leaks, a working flashlight, a sealed gallon of gas or artificial fuel, a first aid kit, blanket, work gloves and jumper cables.

For more information on ways to help a car retain its value, visit

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