If you already have an emergency kit in your car, make sure it's replenished.,If you already have an emergency kit in your car, make sure it's replenished.

3 essential steps to prepping your car for winter wrath

The official start of the winter is only a few days away, but the cold weather season has most certainly made its presence known already. In Buffalo, for example, locals were recently greeted with a monster storm that brought more than five feet of heavy, wet snow in a 24- to 48-hour period. And in New England, just in time for the Thanksgiving holiday, residents experienced a weather event that brought massive power outages and treacherous conditions, making for white-knuckle driving on one of the busiest travel days of the year.

Based on recent weather predictions, the 2014-15 winter season could bring more of the same in the coming months, which may lead to serious headaches for motorists who aren’t prepared.

Due to snow and ice conditions, auto insurance claims tend to increase in the winter months. In the first three months of 2014, for example, 42 states saw insurance claims increase from the same quarter in the previous year, the Insurance Information Institute reported. This may explain why winter weather is the third-largest cause of insured catastrophe losses.

“Accidents and breakdowns are common during the winter driving season, which is why you need to be prepared for these scenarios.”

But winter driving isn’t all about driving more cautiously. It’s also about making sure that you have everything in your car in the event you break down and are stranded. Keeping a phone with you is a smart way of getting in touch with someone for help, but it’s also important to be prepared for worst-case scenarios.

Here are some of the things you should do to prepare yourself and your car for winter driving this year:

Build an emergency kit

Safety experts note that it’s important for every home to have an emergency kit, complete with the supplies you need to provide for yourself and your family for three days or more. Cars should also be outfitted with emergency items as well, as being out on the road can leave you vulnerable when a problem occurs and you’re low on resources. Some basic items to include in your emergency kit include a flashlight with extra batteries, windshield scraper, blankets, booster cables, emergency flares, a tow chain, and a shovel if you get stuck in the snow. You should also have vital items like bottled water, snack food, energy bars, and first-aid supplies if someone else is injured in an accident. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has a helpful resource of what other things to have in your car when there’s an urgent situation.

If you already have an emergency kit in your car, make sure it's replenished.If you already have an emergency kit in your car, make sure it’s replenished.

Take advantage of technology

It seems like everyone has a smartphone, which users know are unlike traditional cellphones because they have Internet connectivity and serve many other functions as well. One of which is the applications you can download. Take a look at some of the weather-related apps that are available from various providers, which have functions that allow you to find out what the weather will be like in your area. In fact, AccuWeather has an app called MinuteCast, which allows drivers to check what driving conditions are like in their community or city. This can help you determine whether you should stay off the roads or if it’s worthwhile to brave the elements.

Install a set of winter tires

When the weather is bad, the average motorist gives themselves at least 30 extra minutes so that they can arrive at their destination on time, a recent survey found. But if you don’t have the proper tires, that extra time may be spent off the road after a spinout. Only 1 in 4 people plan to equip their vehicles with winter tires this year, according to a recent poll from Bridgestone Americas. Installing winter tires on your car is one of the best ways you can avoid getting into an accident because they’re uniquely designed to cut through the icy conditions.

Take the time now to prepare for winter weather. Readying yourself for inclement conditions will give you the confidence needed to brave Old Man Winter.