10 ways to maintain a car in the winter


Amy KulikowskiSpecial to the Southern News 

It’s no surprise that winter is upon us–15 degree weather and piling snow banks have become a sight we are all used to by now. Personal safety is highly important in these cold and icy conditions, however car safety is also something to be aware of.

“Winterizing” your vehicle can save you time and money in the future from repairs, and using preventative measures like checking tire pressure and the battery can keep you out of dangerous situations such as being stuck on the side of the road.

1. Have emergency equipment 
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends stocking your vehicle with items such as ice scrapers, jumper cables, and a flashlight.

2. Check the battery
In the cold weather, the drop in temperature affects the battery power by making it use more power to start your vehicle. According to Consumer Reports, at about zero degrees fahrenheit, the battery has only about half the cranking power it has at 80 degrees. To prevent a dead battery, have a mechanic check it for sufficient voltage and make sure the charging system is working.

3. Look for cracks and leaks 
The coolant in your vehicle expands when it freezes, potentially damaging the engine block. Rubber parts become brittle and fail, so checking the radiator and heater hoses for cracking or leaking is important. Typically, the cooling system should be flushed at least every two years to help corrosion from building up in the system. If your vehicle is due, have it flushed before the cold weather hits.

4. Ensure visibility
Check that the defrosters in your vehicle work properly and the windshield wipers do their job to improve visibility. If snow on carthey leave streaks of water on the windshield or the blades shows any signs of cracking or stiffness, they should be replaced. Because of the salt and mud that will be flying up at your car, keep the windshield washer reservoir filled with a solution that contains an antifreeze agent.

5. Test tire tread and pressure  
The difference between tires and snow tires affects the performance of your vehicle in the snow greatly. Snow tires grip much better, prevent sliding and the tread patterns and rubber compounds are specially designed for winter weather. Whether your vehicle has snow tires or regular tires, it’s important to check the tread and make sure they are not worn–the tread should be at least 1/16 of an inch or greater. Tire pressure also drops in the cold weather and the right tire pressure ensures the best performance and driving range.

6. Turn on headlights 
Safety executive from Travelers Risk Control, Chris Hayes advises driving with headlights, periodically cleaning them to improve visibility and to remember that bridges and overpasses can freeze before roads.

7. Stay in your car 
Hayes said, “If you are unexpectedly caught in a snowstorm and encounter problems, stay in your car and wait for help. Make sure your exhaust pipe is clear of snow.”

8. Clear out snow
There is a danger of carbon monoxide poisoning if snow blocks the pipe and enables the gas to build up in your car and open the window slightly to prevent buildup, according to Hayes. “Falling snow can be picturesque, but it can also wreak havoc on the roads.”

9. Drive carefully
Connecticut’s Transportation Department recommends against driving at rush hour when snow is falling, to stick to main roads and to carpool if possible. The department also emphasizes that it’s essential to clear ice and snow from the car–including windows, mirrors, and reflectors, according to the Hartford Courant.

10. Assume the worst 
“Always assume road conditions are worse than they are and allow additions travel time,” the DOT’s website advises. “Drive cautiously and courteously.”

Photo Credit: Amy Kulikowski, Alex Proimos 

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