Extreme weather conditions can be the No. 1 enemy of your car. Here are some typical hazards and tips for keeping them from shortening the life of your car.

Getting "unstuck" in snow: However careful you may be, you probably get stuck in snow sometime. If you do, try to avoid spinning the wheels. A single rotation of the wheels may be enough to get the car out of the snow under its own power. Put the car in gear and press the accelerator very gently. If that doesn't work, try to "rock" your car out by taking your foot on and off the gas (which is okay). But don't let the wheels spin for more than 10 or 15 seconds. When rocking, let your foot off the gas the instant the car stops its forward rock. Turn off all your accessories and roll down the windows so you can listen to the wheels.

If you have front-wheel drive, turning the wheels to one side or the other will often provide enough traction to get out.

Frozen locks: If your car door lock is frozen, you can use a hair dryer to defrost it. Avoid open flames, such as matches and lighters, because they may damage the finish of the car, but heating your key this way may be helpful. Hot water, which works quickly, is only a temporary solution. Adding more water to the lock will only lead to refreezing. Periodically putting graphite in the locks can help to avoid this problem.

Snow on the roof: If your car is covered with snow, be sure to clear off the entire car, including the headlights and roof, before driving. As the snow on the roof melts it can suddenly slip down on the windshield while you are driving. This presents not only a safely hazard, but if your wipers are on or you try to use them to clear the snow, they may break.

Supplies for snow and ice: Your equipment should include an inexpensive folding shovel, a snow brush, an ice scraper and sand. (Carry the sand in plastic gallon milk bottles to keep it from spilling and make it easy to pour the sand right where you want. One bottle should be enough for most situations.)

Never carry salt in your trunk. Moisture causes salt to react with the metal or run in your trunk. Sand is just as effective as salt and works much faster.