Don't get iced by winter! As winter sets in, the roads can become a treacherous place for a vehicle. Heavy rain, snow, sleet, black ice and ice can create a whole new world on the road than what most are used to driving on. These tips are important to know before you head out on those slippery roads.
The first and most important is to be proactive. Seventy percent of the cars on the road aren't prepared for winter. If you have 4-wheel drive and heated seated, that's not enough.
Many vehicles are designed for all-season driving, but it is your job to get that auto ready for the extreme weather that you will experience. I recommend the following tasks:
- Engine oil can freeze — have the oil changed according to your owners manual; consider changing to a synthetic oil if you live in a cold climate. As pure synthetic oil doesn't freeze, this type of oil really works best to protect that expensive engine.
- Check the coolant or antifreeze; it should be flushed and refilled every two years in most vehicles unless you have long life coolant. This fluid is what helps your vehicle give you heat and not freeze the engine.
- Check the battery — cold temperatures do not like cold temperatures. If the engine starts slowly, that is a hint that the BATTERY needs to be replaced — also carry a set of jumper cables or a self enclosed battery jumper — its easier and safer to use!
- Be certain the heater and defroster are working properly — warmth is the key if you get stuck!
- Keep the gas tank at least half full, this will decrease the chances of moisture forming in the gas lines and possibly freezing. Also use fuel line antifreeze.
- Check tire tread depth and tire pressure; WINTER tires will give you the best braking, handling and safety in the cold temps. If you find yourself sliding around more than usual — check your pressures — for every 10 degrees of air pressure you will LOSE 1-2 pounds of pressure and give you poor handling, braking and wear out your tires quicker. Check tire pressures against the number inside your driver's door for the correct tire pressure for your auto.
- Winter wiper blades will keep the blade on the windshield and won't freeze up — see what you are doing.
You can do it yourself or have a certified ASE auto technician do it for you.
An Extreme Winter Prep Kit should include:
- Jumper cables OR even BETTER – a battery starter
- Ice scraper
- Windshield de-icer fluid
- Tire inflation product
- Flashlight with extra batteries
- Aggressive snow brush
- Extra clothes (hats, winter jacket, scarf, gloves and winter boots)
- LED light source instead of flares (much safer)
- Bottled water
- Snacks (not sugary ones)
- Necessary medications
- First-aid kit
- At least 4 hand warmers per person
- Many extra blankets
Few of us are educated and practiced in how to drive in heavy rain, snow or on slippery road surfaces.
ADJUST YOUR SPEED TO THE CURRENT CONDITIONS.
When driving in challenging conditions, slow down. By decreasing your speed you will allow yourself more time to respond when a difficult situation occurs.
ANTICIPATE DIFFICULT SITUATIONS.
Many studies have shown that 80% of all accidents could be prevented with only one more second to react. This one second can be gained by looking far enough ahead of you to identify problems before you become a part of them.
USE GRIP EFFECTIVELY.
When roads are slippery, always brake in a straight line before the curve in the road. Taking your foot off the brake before you steer into the corner allows you to use the entire grip available for steering. Don't accelerate until the steering wheel is straight.
DRIVE WITH YOUR HEADLIGHTS ON.
Whenever daytime visibility is less than clear, turn on your headlights to be seen by other drivers. Remember this rule of thumb, Wipers On — Lights On. When traveling in snowy weather, remember to clear taillights, turn signal lights and headlamps regularly.
ANTI-LOCK BRAKES CAN'T PERFORM MIRACLES.
ABS braking systems give you the ability to brake and steer, they are still limited by the grip available on the road, and the type of tires on your vehicle. If you're driving too fast into a corner and then try to brake, even ABS won't keep you on the road.
WHEN DRIVING AT NIGHT.
Leave your headlamps on low beam when driving in snow or fog. This will minimizes the reflection and glare, improve visibility, and will help reduce eye fatigue.
WEAR QUALITY SUNGLASSES.
Good quality sunglasses help highlight changes in the terrain and road surface even in low visibility conditions. Polarized lenses are your best choice.
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