ARE YOU AND YOUR CAR READY FOR WINTER WEATHER?
Winter is here. It is raining now, but at some point, we may get more sub-freezing weather and snow. Are you, your family, and your car ready for this kind of winter weather? Especially if you decide to venture out into it. Even you if you are not driving much these days, keeping your car ready to tackle any winter weather is important when you do need to hit the road.
It’s tough to maintain solid control of your car if your tires are in poor shape. Good tread is critical to maintaining a grip on the road. Make sure you have good tires. However, if you plan on winter driving, snow tires are best, they are made for snowy conditions and with chains should get you where you are going.
In case of snow, be sure to have a set of tire chains in your trunk and know how to install them if the time arises. Even with 4-wheel drive and studs, Washington State requires chains on board in every vehicle attempting the passes, if not you will pay a hefty fine. Many tire shops will let you purchase a set of tire chains, and if not used during the winter, return them for a full refund in the spring.
While the Department of Transportation agencies strongly discourage studded tires since these kinds of tires produce substantial road damage for urbanites, if you are a frequent pass driver, they are a must. They are legal in Washington State from November 1st through April 1st. Last year, this period was greatly extended because of late snowy weather for pass travelers.
Keep in mind that when skies clear at night and temperatures drop, icy spots become a greater hazard particularly on bridges, overpasses and in shady locations. Be sure to drive cautiously during freezing temperatures and maintain safe following distances. Better yet, just stay home and drink hot chocoate if at all possible. This allows emergency vehicles to respond to serious health issues, instead of pulling someone out of a ditch.
Brakes are the most important. In icy, snowy conditions, if you feel yourself losing traction, do not slam on your brakes, this will send you spinning out of control. If this happens, stay calm and turn your wheel into the spin and let your vehicle slow down (no gas), before gently tapping your brakes to regain control.
It is critical to be able to see everything around you, especially during the winter season. Is it time to replace your wiper blades? Do your wiper blades create streaks across your windshield? In addition, keep your wipers clean and free of any ice buildup. A good practice when not in use during the winter is to pull the wipers up and away from the windshield, and remove any ice and snow before lowering your wipers to start your journey.
Also be sure to use your defrosters and clear your windshield and rear window before you hit the road. The same goes for clearing all the snow off your car before you leave. Any remaining snow can temporarily obscure your vision while en route, but also fly off and obscure the vision of your nearby fellow motorists.
When on the road, be sure to use your headlights and turn signals when turning and changing lanes in advance so your fellow motorists can see you and know your intentions before you make your move.
Under the Hood
Before embarking on a winter journey, make sure you have a vehicle in great operating condition. Check all the fluids under the hood. Anti-freeze is critical this time of year and ensure it is fresh and full. Also, make sure your window washer liquid is also rated for below freezing. Keep your gas tank at least half full to avoid water condensation in your fuel system.
Your belts, hoses and battery are particularly important during the winter season. These vehicle arteries are what keep your vehicle running well. Without them, you are dead in the water.
In the trunk
First, do not put yourself in a position to need these. Check your weather forecasts. If you are heading over the passes, do not leave your house if they are shut down. Otherwise, you, your family and pets could spend a long, cold, and possibly dangerous, scary night before they clear the avalanche and reopen the road.
Having emergency supplies stowed in your car is the most important. You never know when you will need them. Should you need them, your emergency supplies should include: battery packs for your cell phones, battery jumper cables, first-aid supplies, ice scrapper, flares, repair tools, a shovel, kitty litter, blankets, flashlights and batteries, bottled water, and high-energy snacks.
Even if your car is in great operating condition, you need to drive safely always, particularly during the winter season. Take it easy on wet, icy and snowy roadways, especially on corners, ramps and turns, and be sure to give plenty of room between you and your fellow motorists on the road.