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6 Must-have car features for battling winter

Jean Jennings started the JeanKnowsCars.com website in 2012, having been inspired by her thirty years in the male-dominated world of automotive journalism. As president and editor-in-chief of Automobile Magazine, Jean has had a colorful ...

Drive through winter

If you live in a cold climate, there will be winter driving. The best way to face those frigid mornings and slippery roads is to arm your car with as many as possible of these must-have features or optional equipment specifically designed to tackle Old Man Winter.

Woman driving car in winter

1

Front-wheel drive

When the engine powers the front wheels, it is easier to pull the rest of the car along behind, which especially helpful on slippery surfaces. All-wheel drive or four-wheel drive offers maximum traction in more extreme conditions, like mountainous or otherwise rougher terrain.

2

Heated windshield and side-view mirrors

As you would imagine, embedded heat helps clear away the morning ice a lot faster than the defroster does on its own.

3

Seat heaters

How can you live without seat heaters? The ability to keep from freezing your behind in those first few miles before the cabin heats up is pure bliss. Even my husband, who believes in buying cars with no options, gratefully accepted my Christmas present to him two years ago of an aftermarket seat-heating system for his Chevrolet Suburban.

4

Snow tires

Nothing improves braking, accelerating and traction of your car in the winter like snow tires. They leave so-called all-season tires in the dust, and they have two major benefits: First, they are covered with tiny slits called sipes, which act as little snow grippers as they roll through the white stuff. Second, snow tires are made of a special compound that stays pliable at lower temperatures than regular tires do. I have a set mounted on cheap steel wheels that I store in my garage. It makes it easy to swap them on and off with the seasons.

5

Double-bladed or single-bladed winter-rated windshield wipers

Whichever you choose, make sure you install new wiper blades for the winter ahead. In fact, install new blades every six months, especially if they are rubber. Both salt and sun degrade rubber more than you might realize. And don’t you just hate when the wipers make your windshield a smeary mess that's worse than what you started with? Double and triple blades are supposed to work like razors on stubble — one lifts, the other swipes. Single-blade winter-rated wipers work great, too, and are typically synthetic, which resists the wear and tear of road slush.

6

The Holy Grail

There is no optional winter luxury equipment to be coveted more than the heated steering wheel and remote start — none. Remote start allows you to start your car from the comfort of your kitchen, in your flannel pajamas. And the heated steering wheel takes over the pampering when you slide behind it. Are they truly must-haves? I don’t know about you, but I surely deserve both!

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