Winter is not something that is felt the same way across the country. Yes, temperatures can dip low in Florida and Southern California but not many of those residents experience what it is like waking up in bone-chilling cold to face a car buried under snow that not only has to be dug out but also has to be started. And it is not just the cold temperatures that can hinder starting a car. Many other factors can contribute to a car flat lining such as a low charge on the battery, thicker engine oil that isn’t flowing and old carburetors that are sensitive to freezing numbers. Here’s what you can do to protect your car in the winter and start it up in the cold:

Keep the Car Warm

Obviously, the best place to keep your car in the winter would be indoors in a garage. That might not always be practical. Any steps you can take to shield it from cold blasts you should take. Even parking under cover of a carport or covering the car at night can provide a measure of warmth.

Change the Oil

Check your car’s owner’s manual and your mechanic. There might be a lower grade of oil that will flow easier in colder temperatures. Think about swapping out your current oil for a winter grade.

Keep the Tank Full

A cold car needs 40% more fuel to start than a car that is warm. If your fuel gauge needle is dipping close to “E” on the way home from work, then stop off and get the tank filled before settling in for the night.

Replace the Battery

A decent batter will last up to three years. A really good one can last up to five years. Anytime in the three to five zone and you could be driving on borrowed time. The next time you’re at the mechanic, have them run a quick diagnostic to see what kind of charge is left on your battery. If it is close to running down, then replace it now. While you’re at it, check the battery leads to make sure they haven’t become frayed.

Turn Everything Off

Before starting the car in the cold, be sure to turn everything off. That means radios, heaters and headlights. That will help your battery direct the current to the priority of the starter.

Finally, think twice about leaving your car running unattended. It might be fine in the garage provide you crack open the garage door to vent but you probably shouldn’t leave it running unattended in the street. That could just be asking for trouble. Remember, crooked car thieves could be out on patrol on cold winter mornings looking for those cars.