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SAFETY CORNER - Prepare your vehicle for winter driving

By Ronald Clasberry | GARRISON SAFETY OFFICE | October 06, 2017

     The winter months are hard on your vehicle. Although it is unseasonably warm, winter is coming. Cold temperatures can affect your vehicle’s operation, while dirt and road-salt residue can cause problems with its physical condition, snow and ice limit traction and potholes damage wheels and tires. There are some simple checks and maintenance you can perform that will help your vehicle to stay on the road during winter months.

    1. The condition of your vehicle’s tires is critical during winter. If tire threads are worn or the tires are not all season tires, (such as performance and high performance tires) they could adversely affect the braking, handling and the overall performance of your vehicle in winter. Any of these conditions can increase the likelihood of a crash during winter weather driving.

     2. Tire pressure is especially important during the winter. Traction is affected by wet or snowy conditions. Properly inflated tires allows the best contact between the tires and the road surface, and will help protect against wheel damage that may occur as the vehicle is driven over potholes. Look on the inside of the driver’s door frame, an information sticker with recommended inflation pressure for your tires as well as your spare, or refer to your owner’s manual.

     3. Make sure your vehicle’s four-wheel-drive system is working properly. A big selling point for SUVs and trucks is that they offer four-wheel drive, which improves traction when driving conditions are not optimum such as in mud and snow. The Four-wheel-drive system requires minimal maintenance, but it’s still a good idea to check that it works properly before the onset of winter. Remember, your four-wheel drive will not provide extra traction on icy roadways, so be careful and adjust your speed to current road conditions and give yourself enough time to get where you are going on time.

     4. Change the engine oil and insure the correct grade is used. Your engine requires specific types of oil; there is not one type for all vehicles. If you wish to change your own oil, check your owner’s manual. If you have it done at the dealer or shop ask them what type of oil it takes so you know what should be used if your oil level should need refilling before the next oil change. Viscosity simply refers to how thick or thin the oil is. All engines require a specific type of oil and some require thinner oils when the temperature get below a certain temperature. Follow your manufacturer’s recommendations for the proper viscosity of your oil by the temperature you will be doing most of your driving in.

     5. Inspect the belts and hoses. The condition of your belts and hoses are critical in modern cars. Most have serpentine type belts, these systems uses a single belt wrapped around a series of pulleys and guides to keep them from coming off. Check your belts for cracking, glazing and replace as required. Inspect your hoses for signs of deterioration, cracks or damage to the exterior surface. If you don’t feel comfortable doing these checks have a mechanic take a look at your car for winter servicing. Request a copy of the inspection checklist and results, it should note any corrections made by mechanics.

     6. Inspect the wipers and wiper fluid. The condition of your wipers are critical during winter months since they clean water, ice and snow off your windshield allowing you to see the road. The life expectancy of your wiper blades are dependent on the amount of use and environmental conditions. If your wiper blades cause streaking when used, replace them. Make sure you change the wiper fluid from a summer to a winter blend so your reservoir doesn’t freeze up on you. Check the level of your wiper fluid frequently, refill as required.

     7. Check the battery. A telltale sign that you have a bad battery is when the temperature drops and you try to start your car and you hear a clicking sound from your engine compartment or nothing happens when you turn the key. Cold temperatures can reduce a vehicle’s battery power so it can affect starting your vehicle. If your vehicle battery is older than three years, have it tested at a certified automotive repair facility. Also, make sure the battery posts and cable connections are free of corrosion.

     8. Check antifreeze mixture. Always have your antifreeze (or coolant) protection tested and checked prior to the onset of freezing weather. You can take purchase testers for a few dollars at the auto parts store or have a mechanic check it for you. Failure to ensure that your antifreeze will protect the mixture from freezing and cracking your engine block, heads, or cause damage to your radiator. For example, Prestone 50/50 Premix provides anti-freeze protection up to minus 34 degrees Fahrenheit and boilover protection, using a 15-pound pressure cap in good condition, to +265 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperature where your car is will determine how much anti-freeze protection you will need. Consult a mechanic if you are unsure what kind of antifreeze to use.

     9. Carry an emergency kit inside the car. Things you might want to consider carrying:

                A flashlight, flares and a first-aid kit

                Jumper cables, a common tool kit and tire chains

                A blanket, warm clothes and gloves

                Paper towels

                A bag of abrasive material, such as sand, salt or kitty litter. Use this for added traction when tires slip

                A snow brush, ice scraper and snow shovel

                Coffee can and candles

                Dry food and water

 

       For more information on severe weather preparation, contact the U.S. Army Garrison Fort Riley Safety Office at 785-240-0647.

 

Tag Winter Driving Safety