As the cold weather approaches, it is a good idea to check your vehicle’s tires and make other safety preparations are in place. Winter weather often includes snow, ice-covered roads and very cold temperatures. These conditions require proper preparations such as proper tires and engine fluid checks as well as having a winter emergency kit and other supplies in the vehicle.
According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, “winter storms, bad weather and sloppy road conditions are a factor in nearly half a million crashes and more than 2,000 road deaths every winter.” Proper planning for your personal vehicle or business fleet can help protect you, your family, your employees and your business.
Typically, if you are in a region where you get snow, you would either use snow tires in the winter or all-season tires. These will be your best bet for proper traction. Proper inflation and overall tread life are critical. Tires lose 1 psi per month under normal conditions, cold weather adds to this with a fall of 1 psi for every 10 degrees drop in temperature. It is recommended to check tire pressure at least monthly. To know what your tire pressure should be, just check your vehicle information sticker (often on the driver’s side door jam) or manufacturers manual. Don’t forget to include a check on your spare tire. The tread depth should be examined and a minimum of 2/32” or more is preferred. Check the tires for other issues such as nicks, bulges, cracks and cuts or uneven wear. You may also need to ensure your wheels are balanced and aligned properly.
Winterizing your vehicle is also important this time of year. Under the hood we have a number of items to consider:
- Coolant – Start by checking your engine coolant to ensure you have the correct antifreeze/water mixture to prevent fluid from freezing in your radiator. There are testers available at your nearest auto parts store and you can check your vehicle manufacturer for the proper mixture.
- Oil – Some vehicles and/or locations may require switching to a thinner (lower viscosity) oil.
- Wiper fluid and wipers – You do not want to get stuck on the roads without a good supply of wiper fluid. Seeing clearly out of your window is important and be sure to get “freeze resistant wiper fluid”. Replace worn or damaged wiper blades.
- Battery capacity – Your battery capacity is reduced by 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 over the battery cables for cracks and breaks. The terminals should fit snugly with no loose connections. It is recommended to have your mechanic check the battery fluid and overall capacity on a regular basis but particularly before winter.
- Other items such as brakes, belts, hoses and spark plugs – Ensure that you or your trusted mechanic inspect all critical maintenance items for improper wear or damaged equipment. This will help avoid breakdowns.
Plan now for a winter emergency. Now is the time to make sure you have what could be needed if you become stranded on the roadside. The following items are typically recommended for all vehicles:
- Warm clothing, gloves, hat and a winter coat
- Blanket or “space” blanket
- Snacks, water and a first aid kit
- Phone charger cable and/or portable charger
- Flashlight/flares, and reflective triangles
- Jumper cables or portable car jump starter
- Bag of kitty litter or sand along with a small shovel which may help if you get stuck
- Ice scraper and brush (make sure you remove snow and ice from windshield, lights and body of the vehicle before driving)
- Keep fuel tank full which helps prevent condensation and water into the fuel lines.
As you transition into the winter season, please ensure your vehicle is ready and in a safe condition to protect you, your family and your business. The tips above are meant as a guide but may not be all-inclusive. Please consult with your local mechanic with any specific questions or concerns.