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Safe winter driving involves knowing the tricky things most people run into when driving in the coldest months of the year. Below is a list of winter driving tips for addressing the top issues and worries this season, and where you should address them.
Get regular service done as needed. Now is not the time to risk putting off anything that could keep your car from shutting down in the bitter cold of winter. If a car is essential to your commute, it’s servicing should be a top priority.
This involves many different aspects of your vehicle. One is making sure the battery and charging system are prepared for the cold temperatures ahead, and won’t die on you as you’re trying to head out to the office. Another is having your mechanic check the cooling system. Most systems ideally have an equal 50/50 percentage of water to antifreeze, so try to maintain this balance for optimum freeze-up and boil-over protection all year round.
While you’re in the shop, it’s a good idea to make sure your heating and defrosting systems are all working without a hitch. That rear window defrost will come in handy when you’re in a rush and need to make sure all the snow is off your windows.
Lastly, while you can check at home, make sure to also have your mechanic check your tires. Tires that are deflating easily, have low tread, or have cracks in them are sure to be detrimental to your winter driving. If necessary, depending on your geographic location and lifestyle, it may be wise to invest in winter tires and a set of tire chains this year.
After visiting your favorite car shop, there are a few things you can easily check at home on your own time. One of those is your windshield wipers. Just like with the defrosting system, windshield wipers are essential for surviving winter driving conditions. Keeping your car completely cleaned not only provides a better driving experiences for you, but in most states, there are laws requiring you to keep your car cleared for the road- so make sure your wipers are doing their job, and replace them with winter blades if they’re not!
In keeping with this, the wipers would be nothing without a full unit of washer fluid. Drivers can go through gallons of this stuff in only a week’s time, so it’s smart to not only fill up your car, but to keep an extra jug in the trunk, just to be on the safe side.
Most importantly, the lifeblood of your car, gasoline, should be as close to the “Full” line as possible all winter long. Running out of gas in the summer might make for a funny story, but running out on a below-zero winter night is a different tale.
There are a handful of basic necessities that should be with you in your vehicle at all times during the winter months. One of the most unexpected ones, at least if you drive a rear-wheel-drive car, is a bag of sand. The extra weight from a sandbag can increase the traction of your rear wheels if the bag is placed correctly. The ideal placement is right above the rear axle, or directly between the two back wheels. For most cars, this point can be found in the trunk. Be wary of using too much sand though, as it may cause front end braking issues. Start at twenty pounds, and build from there as needed.
As long as you’re not on it while the car is in motion, a cell phone is an essential tool for ensuring your safety on winter roads. If you’re caught in a ditch on a dark winter night, this could be the difference between getting immediate help and waiting until morning for someone to find you. Keep a charger in the car as well, but try not to depend on this- your phone should, ideally, be mostly charged when you’re on the road, just in case.
Basic medical and survival supplies sound like they may be unnecessary, but you never know when you’ll need them. If you get into an accident and can’t get help for a prolonged period of time, then tools such as a first-aid kit, non-perishable snacks, a blanket, and hand warmers are key to keeping you sane and alive while help is on it’s way.
Last, but certainly not least, it’s essential that you take it slow. Leave for work earlier than you would in the warm months so you don’t feel rushed. Take that extra time to make sure you’re keeping yourself (and others) safe on the road this winter.
For whatever trip you’re taking during the holidays, let Veenstra keep you and your family safe on the road. Call 616.454.6597 to schedule a 22-point inspection today, and stay ahead of the winter weather.