The weatherman said we should get ready for a
cold winter this year. One of the problems with cold winters is that
many of our vehicles are not prepared to deal with the change in
Overlooking the need to prepare for winter
driving can be a mistake -- and a deadly one at that. Conditions can
change quickly. A road can be clear on the way to an appointment, yet
hazardous when it's time to return. Motorists can reduce their
risks with simple maintenance to their cars.
Inspect your vehicle:
This includes making sure that your battery and charging system
are in good working order. Starting your vehicle in cold weather takes
a lot more out of your battery than when the weather is warm. Check
all your belts and hoses and make sure they are not cracked or worn.
You know Murphy's law, if something bad is going
to happen, it will happen when it is most inopportune and you may find
yourself stranded somewhere.
car." Make sure the coolant in your
radiator is ready for the colder temperature. Having enough
anti-freeze in your radiator is the difference between a cracked
engine block and a running vehicle. Repairing this problem is very
costly. Gas stations will usually check your antifreeze for you, but
if you want to do it yourself, you can buy your own tool from an auto
parts store for a few dollars.
Check your windshield
wipers and your defroster. Make sure they are
doing a good job of keeping your windshield as clear as possible. Poor
visibility can lead to accidents.
blades: Replace blades annually. Use a snow
brush and ice scraper to clear the windshield, side and rear
windows, head, tail- and sidelights. Using wipers as ice scrapers
can damage wiper blades and mechanism. De-icer also can be helpful
if a vehicle is left uncovered for a period of time.
Wiper fluid: Windshield
washer fluids vary; some more expensive brands are less likely to
"slush." Monitor this and other fluid levels. Consider
placing a spare bottle in the trunk.
In most areas all-weather tires with good tread
generally work well but if it's necessary to travel , a motorist may
want to consider snow tires. Check the condition of the spare tire,
and if the jack and lug wrench are in place.
Reduce Risks on the Road:
Before You Leave:
conditions by listening to radio and television
Advise others of
departure, estimated travel time and route. If
you fail to arrive, rescuers will know where to begin their
Plan to travel during
SLOW DOWN. Allow extra stopping distance
between your vehicle and the one in front of you. And, keep an eye on
the vehicle behind you.
If bad weather hits, the best thing you can do to
avoid getting into an accident is to slow down. By increasing the
distance between you and other vehicles, you should be able to react
in time to upcoming dangers.
If driving in snow, exaggerate the amount
of distance you normally would have between you and other vehicles.
Make your turns gradually and accelerate and decelerate slowly.
Keeping traction is the key to controlling your vehicle in the snow.
Reduce speed when
approaching an intersection, which can be
particularly dangerous as snow melts and refreezes, turning corners
and approaching or using on and off ramps.
What to do in a skid? The
type of brakes dictates recommended responses. Generally, the rule is
to turn into a skid and then correct, with care not to overcorrect.
With anti-lock brakes, press firmly on the brake pedal. Without
anti-lock brakes, let up on the gas and pump the brakes to avoid wheel
lockup. Practice starts, stops and responding to a skid in an empty
Slide off the road? Staying
with the vehicle is recommended. Tie a bright cloth or bandana to the
antenna or put the hood up to signal the need for assistance. If you
have a cell phone along, use it to call for help.
To stay warm while
waiting, bundle up and/or run the heater intermittently -- perhaps 10
minutes an hour -- to conserve fuel until help arrives.
two to three inches to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. When snow is
a contributing factor and a car or truck slides into a ditch or snow
bank, make sure that the area around exhaust is clear so that carbon
monoxide fumes will be exhausted.
Keep the gas tank close to full to
prevent condensation, add weight, and, if stranded, provide the fuel
needed to run the heater.
Winter Car Kit
Be prepared for delays: Automobile
accidents can leave you stuck in traffic for hours at a time. Pack a
blanket, some non-perishable food items, and some water or a two liter
of soda pop and leave it in your vehicle. Those items may come in
handy in the event that you get stranded with automobile problems or
are forced to wait while accidents are investigated and cleared up.
Think of a winter car kit as an insurance policy.
What to include?
Here are some recommendations:
Bright tie or bandanna to tie on antenna
as a signal
Cell phone, if you have one
Extra warm clothes, such as insulated
jacket, hat, gloves, socks and boots
Flashlight with extra batteries
Flare or reflectors
Non-skid mats or cat box litter (for
traction, if stuck)
Bag of sand or salt
First aid kit
Two or more day supply of medications
Candle, coffee can and matches (in
Non-perishable food, such as dried fruit,
nuts, cereal bars