12 Amazing Auto Safety Tips You Must Read Before Driving This Winter
It’s that time of year again that all us car owners loathe… winter! Nothing does more damage to a gorgeous paint job then hail, sleet, snow, ice and road salt… let alone the accidents that can be caused by the icy roads and careless holiday shoppers. Because we want to help you keep you safe, and your car’s exterior in pristine condition here’s our guide to winterizing your car this holiday season:
Check Your Engine Oil: Cold winter temperatures will influence the way your engine oil works in the winter. In order to keep your car running to it’s optimal performance, you will want to choose an oil that fits your area’s winter weather conditions and temperatures.
During the winter months, if you live where temperatures get below freezing, you'll want to switch over to thinner―less viscous―oil. If you run a 10W-30 in the summer, for example, try moving to a 5W-30 when changing your oil in the fall or winter. If you are in doubt, refer to your manual or the manufacturer.
Check Your Engine Coolant: Your car’s coolant doesn’t only keep your engine from overheating, it also protects against engine corrosion. Be sure you have a good quality coolant that contains ethylene glycol this winter for added protection. Also, make sure your engine’s coolant to water ratio is set for winter conditions. For most vehicles, the winterizing ration is 60% coolant to 40% water, which may be slightly different then it’s summer ratio. Check your car’s manual for specifics.
Check Your Car Battery: Car batteries can put up a fight about the cold weather too. Their capacity is reduced due to the cold weather. A thorough inspection of your battery, cables, terminals, and fluid will help you make sure your car is ready for the winter. Check for cracks, breaks and a good fit with the cables. Check your battery fluid by uncovering the refill hole. If the level is below the bottom cap, refill with distilled water.
Check your battery’s charge as well. To read the level of charge in your battery, turn the engine off. Some batteries have a built-in hydrometer that tells you the amount of voltage remaining in the battery. If you need to get a new battery, check the manufacture date. Never buy a battery with a six month old manufacture date.
Check Your Tires: Good tires are essential to staying safe in the winter. Ideally, if you have the option, buy a good set of quality snow tires and swap them out for the winter months. Chains are another option. You may not quite get the fuel efficiency you’re used to with the heavier, more aggressive winter tires, but you’ll be less likely to skid, slide, or get stuck in the slush and snow.
Check your tire tread as well. You’ll need it more than ever to battle ice and slush. The easiest way to do this to take a penny and put it in the tread of your tire. If your tire tread clears President Lincoln’s head… its time to get new tires.
Windshield Treatment: Using a windshield wiper spray with antifreeze or one geared toward winter will help keep your fluid from freezing. It will also help get the heavy ice and debris off your windshield. There are harsh weather treatments you can do to your windshield as well. Don’t be afraid to pick up a set of winter windshield wipers as well. They will help handle the snow and ice better then a regular set. Defrosting/Deicing sprays are extremely handy to keep in your car, along with an ice scraper. Just make sure you buy good products to avoid damaging or scratching your car. Don’t forget to keep an extra set of de-icing spray and an ice scraper in your house/garage or at your office. If they get frozen into your car, you’re not going to be able to get to them to defrost your car. If you forgot, and left them in your iced over vehicle, warm water will help melt the ice that has frozen your locks, door handle and door shut. Don’t force the door open. You’ll end up ripping off your door handle.
When you know it’s going to snow, another good idea is to pull your windshield wipers up off the car and point them toward the sky. This way they won’t get frozen to the windshield, and it will make it much easier to defrost and remove snow and ice from the glass.
General Winter Checks: Before it gets way too cold, check to make sure your car’s brakes, battery, antifreeze level, thermostat, heater and defroster are in top condition. (Key word being BEFORE).
Wax Your Car: Before it gets too cold, give your car a good wax to help protect the exterior. Small imperfections can turn into large ones quickly due to ice, rain, scraping, salt, hail and all the other elements of the season. During the winter months, make sure to keep your car very clean and wash it often. The salt can cause devastating corrosion to your vehicle, especially when left sitting on your car for months.
Gas Tank: Keep your car’s gas tank at least half full throughout the winter. This will reduce condensation, making your vehicle easier to start on cold mornings.
Keep Your Car Clean: Make sure your car is always completely cleared off before you drive it. This includes snow on the roof, hood, and head and taillights, and most importantly, all ice and snow from every window and mirror your car has. I know it may be cold, and the last thing you want to do is stand outside freezing while scraping non stop, but you will definitely cause an accident if you do not clean your car properly. People need to be able to see your lights and turn signals. You don’t want snow sliding off your car into another car when you stop or accelerate. This not only can damage their car but impair their vision. Above all DO NOT attempt to drive before your windows are completely clear. You will create blind spots and cause yourself to have an accident. It is just not worth it.
Drivetrain: Typically it’s not recommended to drive rear-wheel drive vehicles in the snow or bad weather. Because the weight of the car is mostly in it’s front end, and it’s momentum is coming from the back end, your car is more prone to sliding around on ice or snow, then a front-wheel or all-wheel drive car is. If you must drive a rear-wheel vehicle, place weights or a sand bag in the back of your car to help create traction in the rear of the vehicle. Do not become overconfident in a vehicle that has AWD or four-wheel drive. While this gives your car a greater ability to get your vehicle moving from a dead stop, it does not assist in helping your vehicle brake better. In fact, many AWD or 4WD are actually heavier than 2WD vehicles, and require more time, distance and breaking power to come to a complete stop.
Planning: Give yourself extra time to drive in bad weather, not only to clean your car off or dig out your drive way, but to drive much slower then you usually would on dry streets. Check the weather reports, traffic reports and watch the TV or listen to the radio before you leave the house to learn about accidents, road closings, poor weather advisories.
Drive Safely: Don’t make sharp decisions in poor weather. Accelerate, turn, and break slowly and early. Give yourself extra time and space as well as extra distance between cars. Quick movements or uses of acceleration or breaking systems can cause your car to fishtail, spin or slide. Even cars with anti-lock breaks will take considerable extra distance to stop themselves from sliding. If your car gets stuck in the snow, straighten your wheels and accelerate slowly. Avoid spinning your tires. You’ll only dig yourself deeper into the snow. Rock the car back and fourth, using the weight and momentum to get your car unstuck. You may also have to get out of your car and remove the snow and slush around your tires. As a very last resort, you can actually let out some of the air in your tires to try and help get a better traction to get your vehicle out. This is not recommended if you have a long drive and are unable to get to a place where you can re-inflate them to the right amount of pressure quickly.
Drive slow, but not too slow. Driving too slow will cause your car to get buried or stuck. You need a little momentum to push through the slush and snow.
Stay away from trucks and trailers. They need much more room to stop, and can be much more dangerous if they start to slide out of control. They also tend to splatter debris from their tires and rooftops making it harder for your to drive.