by Christie Stock, president, Discount Tire
Old Man Winter is arriving, and with him he brings snow, sleet, freezing temperatures, ice and winds. With all these coming our way it’s time to buckle down and prepare for the hazards winter can and will bring. It’s important to adapt accordingly for your own safety and for the safety of others around you. It’s also helpful to practice winter driving techniques in a snowy, open parking lot so you are familiar with how your car handles.
The best advice one can give in regards to driving in bad weather is not to drive at all if and when it can be avoided. If you must venture out however don’t leave until the snow plows and or sanding trucks have had a chance to do their work. Here are some key tips for when you get on the road:
• Allow yourself plenty of extra time to reach your destination.
• Always drive with two hands on the wheel. Keep distractions away and focus on the road.
• Before turning, slow down while traveling in straight line.
• While turning, maintain a slow and regular speed. If you accelerate suddenly your tires could lose traction.
• Also while turning, don’t make any sudden steering wheel movements.
• Only brake in a straight line before the turn and do so gradually. Do not brake during the turn.
• Increase your following distance from other cars significantly.
• If your wheels lock and slide, release the brake pedal to recover traction, then slowly brake again.
• Try to avoid changing lanes in slush.
• If using chains, check for proper clearance between the tire and the vehicle, as well as for clearance between dual tires.
Stranded Do’s and Don’t’s:
In the event that you happen to become stranded, there are some vital things to remember in order to experience the best possible outcome. The following tips are designed to help get you through this trying and scary experience:
• Try to stay calm.
• Don’t tire yourself out. Shoveling in the intense cold can be deadly.
• Do not leave your vehicle unless you know exactly where you are, how far it is to possible help and are certain you will improve your situation.
• To attract attention, light two flares and place one a safe distance from each end of your vehicle.
• Hang a brightly colored cloth from your antenna.
• If you are sure the vehicles exhaust pipe is not blocked, run the engine and heater for about 10 minutes every hour or so, depending on the amount of gas in the tank.
• Protect yourself from frostbite and hypothermia by using woolen items and blankets to keep warm.
• Keep at least one window open slightly as heavy snow and ice can seal the vehicle shut.
• Eat hard candy to keep your mouth moist.
Personal Preparedness Kit:
Thinking ahead and being equipped for any emergency that may arise is one of the best lines of defense one has when it comes to traveling during the winter. It doesn’t matter if you are driving across the country or to the corner store, always being prepared for what could happen brings valued peace of mind. The following items should be in your vehicle at all times:
• A shovel for snow removal
• Jumper cables
• Emergency flares
• A properly inflated spare tire, wheel wrench and car jack
• A bag of salt, cat litter or a small piece of carpet for added traction when stuck
• A first-aid kit
• A basic tool kit
• A working flashlight with extra batteries
• Blankets, warm clothing and gloves
• An ice scraper with snow brush
• Wooden matches in a water-proof container
• Extra windshield washer fluid
• Reflective triangles and a bright-colored cloth
• Non-perishable, high-energy foods such as unsalted nuts, hard candy and dried fruits
• A compass
• Water in a plastic container that won’t break if it freezes
• Two 2×4 wood planks for jack support
Winterizing Your Vehicle:
Just as it’s important to prepare yourself for winter you must also prepare your car. Driving in the winter means changes in the way you drive. Snow sleet and ice can lead to slower traffic, hazardous road conditions and unforeseen dangers. You can avoid many dangerous winter travel problems by planning ahead. Have your vehicle maintenance service done as often as the manufacturer recommends. In addition to that, every fall complete the following checklist items to get your vehicle set for the winter season ahead:
• Keep gas tank near full to avoid ice in the tank and fuel lines
• Check antifreeze levels
• Check windshield wiper fluid and be sure it’s a stronger cleaner/de-icer fluid solution
• Check power steering fluid
• Check heater and windshield defroster
• Check brakes and brake fluid
• Check ignition system
• Check emergency flashers and lights
• Check exhaust
• Check tire pressure and wear
• Check fuel
• Check oil
• Check battery
• Check radiator