Colorado is already getting a taste of winter with snow starting to accumulate in the mountains. Here are the best things you can do to make sure you and your car are ready for the cold snowy weather ahead.

Winter driving presents a number of challenges from slick snowy and icy roads to weather delays and road closures. Add to that the cold temperatures and getting stuck or stranded somewhere and you could find yourself in a dangerous or life-threatening situation.

Starting with your car, here are the important things you need to take care of before traveling this winter, even if it's just around town.

  • Windshield Wipers and Wiper Fluid - If you haven't changed wipers recently, do it now. Fill the wiper fluid reservoir with a sub-zero temperature rated fluid. Test to make sure the pump and spray nozzles are working properly.
  • Heater and Defroster - If it's not blowing warm air or not blowing it in the right places, get it fixed. Snow and ice on the windows is a great way to get in an accident because you can't see what's going on around you.
  • Antifreeze - Test it to make sure it's good to well below zero degrees.
  • Lights - Headlights, tail lights, brake lights, marker lights all need to be working. Falling snow greatly limits visibility. The more lights you have, the better you'll be seen.
  • Fuel System and a Full Tank of Gas - If you don't understand the fuel system have it checked by a mechanic. If you get delayed or stranded, the extra gas comes in real handy. Not letting your tank get less than half full also greatly reduces the risk of condensation in the tank which could lead to a plugged fuel filter.
  • Ignition - If your car is hard to start now, it will only get worse as it gets colder.  The starter and alternator also fall in this category.
  • Battery - The two worst enemies of batteries are summer heat and winter cold. A lot of places will test it for free, so no excuses.
  • Exhaust System - If it's faulty, your car may not run properly or worse, exhaust can get inside the car which can be deadly.
  • Tire Tread - The less tread there is on the tires, the more likely you are to lose control on an icy snowy road.
  • Brakes - It's hard enough with good brakes to stop when it's slick. Bad brakes are just a winter accident waiting to happen.

Even if everything in your car is checked and working well, bad things can still happen. This is why getting yourself ready for winter travel by having these safety items in your car is so important.

Colorado Department of Transportation/Thinkstock
  • Flares/Reflectors to Warn Other Motorists - Just in case you're stopped or stuck.
  • Ice Scraper, Snow Brush, Cloth or Paper Towels, and Small Snow Shovel - They're needed, guaranteed.
  • Flashlight, Portable Radio, and Extra Batteries - Or, one of those nifty crank to charge models is good, too.
  • Warm Blankets or Sleeping Bag - The car's heater won't work if the car isn't running so you'll have to snuggle up.
  • Extra Clothes - That includes gloves, hats, and boots. Chemical hand warmers are great to have, too. You don't have to be wet and cold.
  • Water and Non-Perishable Food - No one wants to be hungry or thirsty if they get stuck in traffic or in the snow.
  • First Aid Kit and Essential Medications - Alway carry a first aid kit. The extra medications are just in case it takes much longer to get where you're going than expected.
  • Tire Chains, Tow Strap, and Jumper Cables - Even the best tires aren't always enough. And don't count on someone who's willing help you to have a tow strap or jumper cables.
  • Cat Litter or Sand - Sometimes, all you need is a little extra traction and either of these will do the trick.
  • Deck of Cards or Travel Games - They can make the wait while the road or an accident is cleared seem to go by faster.

While this is a comprehensive list, there are a lot more things you can do to be prepared for winter travel. The Colorado Department of Transportation has plenty of information, including the road conditions, to make winter driving as safe as possible.