We think it’s pretty plain to see by now that the Winter of 2015 is going to be a rough one. If you haven’t done so already, here are nine ways to prepare your car for safe winter driving and increase your chances of avoiding a weather-related car accident.
- Check your battery. Cold weather saps a car battery’s strength. It also takes more power to start a car in cold weather. Have a technician check your car battery’s voltage and ensure that its cable connections are tight.
- Check your tires. Make sure the pressure in each tire meets the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended inflation level, which is listed in your owner’s manual and on a placard located on the driver’s side doorjamb. Make sure the tread is sufficient and has no uneven wear, and that the rubber is in good condition overall. In Northern Virginia or in the mountains, snow tires offer a firmer grip on snow-covered roads.
- Keep fluids current. Make sure the condition, level and concentration of your vehicle’s anti-freeze is appropriate (usually a 50/50 mix of anti-freeze and water). A full gas tank helps keep moisture from forming and its weight increases traction. Don’t let fuel fall below half a tank. Fill your vehicle’s windshield washer reservoir with high-quality, “no-freeze” fluid.
- Consider oil viscosity. It may be beneficial to switch to oil with a lower-viscosity (thickness) if you are due for an oil change. Cold temperatures can cause oil to thicken, so a change may counter this attribute before it becomes a problem.
- Check windshield wipers. Make sure your windshield wipers work and, if the blades are worn, replace them. You might install heavy-duty winter wipers for an area that gets a lot of snow and ice. Make sure window defrosters (front and rear) work properly.
- Check belts and hoses. Coldness can also weaken rubber belts and hoses. A broken one will leave you stranded. Unless you’ve had a tune-up recently, have a technician check your belts and hoses and show you any problems. Then replace worn parts.
- Look at your lights. Winter days are short. Replace any burnt-out bulbs to make sure your vehicle’s headlights, taillights, brake lights, turn signals, emergency flashers and back-up lights all work.
- Plan your winter driving. Don’t needlessly expose your car to winter driving hazards. Check the weather forecast before an extended trip. If you know that road conditions are or will be hazardous, avoid driving if possible. Before you get in your car and start driving, think about the safest route to your destination. Try to avoid bridges, hills and high-congestion areas.
- Prepare for emergencies. If you encounter a winter storm while away from home, you could become stranded. Prepare by putting together an emergency kit and keeping it in your car. It should include a blanket, ice scraper, small shovel, flares, gloves, boots, tire chains, jumper cable, a flashlight, snacks and beverages. Of course, you should always have your phone with you while on the road (but should not use it while driving). Add a charger to your emergency kit, too.
The winter of 2015 is far from over, and following these simple recommendations can prepare you for the unexpected when it arises and help keep you safe.