WASHINGTON -- To promote safe travels this holiday season, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued an advisory Dec. 21 recommending that drivers take the following precautions:

Get your car serviced now to ensure your vehicle is in optimal condition.

Visit your mechanic for a tune-up and other routine maintenance.

Have your entire vehicle checked thoroughly for any leaks, bad hoses or other needed parts, repairs and replacements.

Check your battery.

When the temperature drops, so does battery power. For gasoline-powered engines, also be aware that it takes more battery power to start your vehicle in cold weather than in warm. 

For electric vehicles, the driving range is reduced. Find out if your battery is up to the challenges of winter by:

-- Having your mechanic check your battery for sufficient voltage

-- Having the charging system and belts inspected

-- If necessary, replacing the battery or making system repairs, including simple things like tightening the battery cable connections

-- Making sure, for electric vehicles with gasoline backup systems, to keep fresh gasoline in the vehicle to support the gasoline backup system.

Check your cooling system.

When coolant freezes, it expands. This expansion can potentially damage your vehicle’s engine block beyond repair. Don’t let this happen to your vehicle this winter.

Make sure you have enough coolant in your vehicle and that it’s designed to withstand the winter temperatures you might experience in your area.

A 50/50 mix of coolant to water is sufficient for most regions of the country. See your vehicle owner’s manual for specific recommendations.

Thoroughly check the cooling system for leaks or have your mechanic do it for you. 

If your system hasn’t been flushed (draining the system and replacing the coolant) for several years, have it done now. Over time, the rust inhibitors in antifreeze break down and become ineffective. Coolant also needs to be refreshed periodically to remove dirt and rust particles that can clog the cooling system and cause it to fail.