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Tips for Winterizing your Car

Winterizing Your Car Under the Hood &
Things to Carry in the Trunk, Just in Case of Breakdown

by Shannon Caldwell

Snow might be pretty to look at, but it sure makes vehicle maintenance (and driving) more of a chore, doesn't it?

Here are some tips that will make it a breeze to winterize your car:

  • Check windshield wiper blades to make sure they work properly. In some areas, snow blades are an effective alternative to conventional wiper blades.

  • Check your anti-freeze/coolant to provide the correct level of protection required in your driving area.

  • Make sure your tires are properly inflated. Letting air out to drive in snow can reduce the gripping action of tires because the tread will not meet the road surface as it was designed to do. Over-inflation has the same effect.

  • Use dedicated snow and ice tires if you live in areas where snow and ice are certainties. Snow and ice tires have a tread compound and design to provide enhanced traction and road-gripping capabilities. Install snow tires all the way around the vehicle, not just on the drive axle.

  • Keep your gas tank at least half-full. The extra volume can help reduce moisture problems within your fuel system. It also adds a margin of safety should you become stopped or stranded during your trip.

  • Battery — Make sure terminals are clean and tightened. You can clean yourself with an old toothbrush and a homemade mixture of baking soda and water. Batteries should be replaced every three to four years. So, if you're uncertain if it's good to go for the upcoming winter, have a trained technician test it for you. When shopping for new battery, look for models that offer most starting power, higher cold cranking amps, and reserve capacity to provide electrical energy when engine isn't running.

  • Oil — Change your oil grade for winter and/or subzero conditions. Check your owner's manual and use lowest recommended grade for best all-weather protection, fuel efficiency, and energy conservation.

  • Remove ice and snow from your shoes before getting in your vehicle. As it melts, it creates moisture build-up, causing windows to fog on the inside. You can reduce this fogging by turning the air re-circulation switch to the "off" position. This brings in drier, fresh air. You can also run your air conditioner for a few minutes, which serves as a dehumidifier.

  • Scrape the ice and snow from every window and the exterior rear view mirrors, not just a small patch on the windshield. Don't forget headlights and brake lights.

  • Adjust headrests so that the back of the head rests squarely in the center of the headrest. Rear-end collisions are common in winter driving and a properly adjusted headrest can prevent, or reduce, neck injuries.

  • Keep your vehicle stocked with simple emergency equipment in case you do get stalled or have an accident:
    1. Blanket and extra clothes, gloves
    2. A candle and matches
    3. Snacks, water, beverages (never alcohol)
    4. Flares and a flashlight
    5. C.B. radio, cellular phone or hand radio
    6. Long jumper cables
    7. Small shovel, other tools
    8. Windshield scraping device
    9. Tow rope
    10. A bag of sand or cat litter for traction
    11. Change for pay phones
    12. First Aid Kit

  • During winter months, keep abreast of weather reports in your area. If snow or ice is predicted, make plans to leave early or arrive later. An alarm clock set to an earlier time can be a good friend in helping you avoid difficulties.

  • Turn on your lights. Whenever daytime visibility is less than ideal, turning on your lights allows you to see, and to be seen by others. Remember this rule of thumb. Wipers On - Lights On. Wear quality sunglasses. Good quality sunglasses help highlight changes in the terrain and road surface even in low visibility conditions. Snow can cause serious glare.

  • When driving at night, leave your headlamps on low beam when driving in snow or fog. This practice minimizes the reflection and glare, improves visibility, and reduces eye fatigue. When oncoming cars approach, focus on the right side of the roadway to help maintain good night vision.

  • If you can move a night trip to daylight hours, do so. Not only is visibility better, but if your vehicle is stalled, you are more likely to receive prompt assistance during the daytime. Before you go, plan the best route to your destination. Avoid hills, high congestion areas and bridges if possible.

  • Adjust your speed to the current conditions. When driving in challenging conditions, decreasing your speed will allow more time to respond when a difficult situation arises. Factors such as the type of vehicle you are driving, the quality of snow tires your car is equipped with, and your abilities as a driver should be considered in the speed adjustment. Posted speed limits identify the maximum speed allowed when weather conditions are ideal. Law enforcement agencies can write citations to motorists driving the posted speed limit if weather conditions warrant a slower speed.

  • Anticipate difficult situations. Studies have shown that 80% of all accidents could be prevented with only one more second to react. In many situations, this one-second can be gained by looking far enough down the road to identify problems before you become a part of them. Be more alert to the actions of other drivers. Anticipate coming from side streets and put extra distance between your vehicle and the one in front of you. If someone is too close behind you, don't speed up; slow down and let them go around you.

  • Maintain a comfortable driving environment. A constant flow of cool air will help to keep you alert, and keep the windows clear of frost. Keeping one window slightly open will allow you to hear sirens and other warning sounds more quickly. Avoid bulky or ski boots, gloves and coats.