Fall is here and winter is just around the corner. With a repeat of La Nina in store for this winter offering another strong likelihood of snow in the North Sound, as well as a likely healthy mountain snowpack, it is time to get your car, SUV, or truck ready for winter season driving.
The first BIG step is addressing where the rubber meets the road – your tires. Having solid traction on wet, snowy, or icy roads is critical to safe driving. Check the tread on your tires by using the quarter test. Slide George Washington’s head in first. If his head is covered by the tread, your tires should be okay. If his head is visible anywhere, new tires are needed. Conduct this test at a number of points on each tire.
In the North Sound, all-season tires should do the trick, but check with your tire outlet for the best tire for your vehicle. With good tires, you won’t be the motorist who spins out blocking traffic or slides off the road. Also, consider having tire chains handy for those snowy or icy days, and practice how to put them on during a good weather day. Practice makes perfect, particularly when it is cold outside and your fingers get numb.
Traction on the road also means having proper tire pressure. Temperatures vary widely during the fall, winter, and spring. Have your tire pressure checked at least monthly, and more often if temperatures change by 20 degrees or more.
Being able to see out your windshield and all other windows is important, particularly during our long nights. It is strongly advised to have your windshield wipers changed each year, and fall is the best time as we head into winter. Ensure your washer fluid is full and use the kind with de-icer in it to help with those chilly days.
Has your vehicle been serviced ahead of each winter? Not only can they do an oil change, but also check your air filter, battery, and fluids including anti-freeze. It is recommended to maintain a ratio of 50/50 and 70/30 of anti-freeze to water in your cooling system.
Your service can also include checking belts, hoses, and other cables that can crack or fail during winter. In addition, the service can check your brakes so your car can stop more readily if needed. Also ensure all vehicle lights are working including your headlights, brake lights, signals, and running lights. It is not only important to see out of your vehicle, but also to be seen well.
Winter is also the time to ensure you have a good winter safety kit on board. There are safety kits that include flares, battery cables, reflectors, and other visibility and safety items – all in one kit. It is also wise to have these snow items in your vehicle in case you get stuck – kitty litter, a snow shovel, a sturdy ice scraper, and a snow brush. And in case you get stuck or find yourself waiting for a Cascade highway to open after avalanche control, have gloves, blankets, extra food or snacks, and water in your vehicle. A first aid kit and another bottle of windshield washer fluid are good ideas to have on hand as well.
Have you ever had your door locks freeze up? Water can get into door or trunk locks and then freeze up. To address this, lubricate your locks in advance with a silicone spray. If already frozen, use a lock anti-freeze product to thaw the lock(s).
In addition, always try to keep your gas tank at least half full in case of long waits for roads to open, either from snow and ice or traffic crashes. Those previously mentioned large temperature fluctuations can cause water condensation to form inside your gas tank and keeping your tank at least half full helps address that issue.
Winter driving conditions often turn hazardous from heavy rain and ponding on roadways, as well as with snow and ice. It is important you and your vehicle are up to the challenge. And during hazardous conditions, slow down, maintain safe following distances, and use your headlights and signals so others can see you and know what your next move will be. Together, we can have a safe winter driving season and look forward to warmer drier days next spring and summer.