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Can your off-road vehicle handle ice?

As an off-road driver, you probably think you and your vehicle are ready for any kind of inclement weather. After all, when you've equipped your ride with truck modifications ranging from lift kits to specialty tires, those features can make a big difference when snow and ice are coating the ground. However, even those drivers with the most advanced winter amenities should be sure their vehicles are prepared to handle seasonal surprises. 

"When unforeseen events occur, like severe weather or a major accident, your car could become your home for hours," said Rich White, the executive director of the Car Care Council. "By reviewing a quick checklist, you'll be better prepared to handle unpredictable winter weather conditions that can leave you stranded." 

Check the lighting
The days may be getting longer, but there's still months to go before sunshine fills the majority of your waking hours. To prepare for darkness, be sure to periodically inspect the headlights and taillights. Not only should they be working well, but they need to be aimed correctly, and adjusting them to improve your visibility is key. A good option is to invest in LED lights, which have a longer life span than traditional options, or lighting racks, which sit on top of the vehicle to light the way. 

Don't put off maintenance
If you're a big fan of off-road driving, there is a good chance you are keeping up with the right vehicle maintenance throughout the year. However, it can't hurt to add in a few extra examinations in the winter. 

"It's never a good time to gamble with safety when it comes to your vehicle, so if you haven't had your vehicle checked recently, now is the time to be car care aware and get a thorough vehicle inspection including a brake inspection, battery check and tune up," White said. 

Examine the HVAC system
If you do find yourself stuck in heavy traffic or sidelined due to winter weather, you'll be thankful for a functional heater and defroster. These are essential to have throughout the cold-weather months regardless of whether you're off-roading or cruising on the pavement. Not only are they key for preventing portions of the vehicle from freezing, which impacts functionality, but they keep you comfortable and alert behind the wheel.