Winter Car Care

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With the region’s first two snow events coming on weekends, you might be feeling like we’re going to dodge the snowball this winter.

Not so fast! Take a look at Nor'Easter Nick’s forecast for the rest of winter. And if you’re not prepared for snowy (or messy) driving conditions, consider this fair warning. The Grapevine has three pages of winter driving tips and advertisers who can help you get your vehicles ready to weather the storms.

Ultimate Winter Driving Tips

Whether you’re driving cross-country or across town this winter, consider these tips to help make your ride safer:

1. Take care of the outside: Check essential safety components like your tires, headlights and windshield wipers. Make sure you have proper tire pressure and enough tread, that your headlights are bright, and that your wipers are clean and in good working condition. If the temperatures are still mild, it's also a good time to give your car a good wash and a protective coat of wax.

2. Have the right type of tire: All- season tires are effective for three seasons and in regions with light-to-moderate winter weather. However, when winter precipitation is greater and/or when temps approach the freezing point and below, all-season rubber compounds begin to stiffen enough to compromise traction in emergency maneuvers or panic braking. If you’re driving in a climate where the temperature consistently approaches the freezing point, consider winter tires to better manage winter conditions.

3. Have a winter ready kit in the trunk: Be sure you know where your ice scraper or snow brush is. It’s not a bad idea to have an extra set of gloves and boots in the trunk, as well as a shovel, ice melt and jumper cables. Hopefully you’ll never need them, but better to be safe than sorry!

More Tips for Winter Driving

Winter weather means hot cocoa and snow angels for some and slippery, dangerous commutes for many.

Owning tires with enough tread is paramount to better traction on winter roads. Drivers should check their tires now, before bad weather hits. If they feel some level of decreased performance, or their tires have 4/32 of an inch or less tread left, consumers should consider tire replacement. In winter storm-prone areas, motorists can opt for true winter tires to combat ice and snow. In more temperate zones, motorists can use good all-season tires.

Aside from having the right tires, here’s some additional advice for motorists facing slippery conditions:

Slow down. If you can’t see as far as usual, or the roads are slippery, slow down. Always consider the posted speed limits, but understand that those limits indicate the maximum speed in good weather conditions.

Plan ahead. When approaching a curve or an icy area, use the brakes safely. Apply the brakes on a straight section of the road before the curve.

Be alert to other vehicles. Maintain a four-seconds distance between your vehicle and the one ahead of you. If someone else drives too close to your vehicle, slow down to let them pass. Do not speed up.

Remember to use your lights. You should always turn your lights on when your windshield wipers are operating.

Set a comfortable temperature inside the vehicle. Keep the windows free of frost, ice and snow.

Avoid sudden braking and steering responses. Always signal early when turning or stopping, to alert approaching or following drivers.

Avoid overconfident driving. Do not overestimate the vehicle’s capability because it has anti-lock brakes, four-wheel drive, traction control, winter tires or other safety devices. Do not allow good judgment and smart driving to be overtaken by a false sense of security.

Keep Your Cool with These Antifreeze Tips

When traveling on the roads during the frigid winter months, a little preventive maintenance can go a long way toward keeping your vehicle in optimum working condition. One of the key components of a car’s engine—antifreeze—can leave you out in the cold if not checked properly.

The following tips from the Car Care Council will guarantee that your cooling system works effectively this winter:

Properly check coolant levels. You will need a few basic service tools and an antifreeze ball tester, which is available at your local auto parts store.

Start with a cold engine. Opening a hot radiator, coolant reservoir or overflow tank can cause severe burns.

Add the correct mix ratio if low. If the antifreeze or coolant is low, add a 50/50 mix of approved antifreeze and distilled water. If you have changed your antifreeze recently, but levels are low, use the antifreeze ball tester to make sure the coolant-to-water ratio is correct.

Don’t forget the hoses. This is also a good time to check for and replace any leaking, brittle, spongy or cracked hoses. Also make sure the radiator hose clamps are tight to prevent leaks at the connections. 

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