Christmas has come and gone, New Year’s Day is behind us, and all many of us have to look forward to weather-wise over the next several months is bad or worse. Now is the time to make certain your car is well-prepared for what can be not only uncomfortable but also hazardous weather. And we don’t mean just snow either. Many of the areas of the country that don’t see much snow can still present challenging conditions for your car each winter. If it isn’t properly prepared, one night’s hard freeze can cost you several thousand dollars in repairs. That’s not the only thing to worry about, either.
Adjust your mindset for winter weather
When it comes to surviving winter weather, adjusting your mindset is important. You have to keep in mind that getting there safely is much more important than getting there quickly. The first thing this implies is adjusting your timetable to match the difficult weather you might encounter.
When you are driving in snowy and/or icy conditions, you should adjust your vehicle speed downward. In slippery bad-weather conditions your stopping time and distance increase significantly, so slowing down will help you avoid rear-ending another vehicle if it comes to a sudden stop in front of you. One thing you might not realize is as your vehicle speed decreases, the tire footprint actually in contact with the surface increases, providing better traction.
On a similar note, when things are icy, you should increase your following distance. If a car-length of distance per every 10 miles per hour is your norm in dry weather, double or even triple that on snow and ice. Neither snow nor ice offer nearly the friction that regular pavement does, so as your wheels and tires slow during braking on those surfaces the actual stopping power they offer decreases radically. The result: a stop you could make in 100 feet in dry weather might now take you 300 feet.
These days many vehicles are equipped with “all-season” tires, which gives consumers the impression that the tires are appropriate for year-round use. While all-season tires are good, they do represent a compromise, because they are designed for use in a wide variety of conditions, including dry pavement, wet pavement and winter conditions. For the utmost in safety, a true winter tire, like the recently launched Hercules Avalanche RT, can give you better traction in cold weather.
Winter tires like the Avalanche RT are specially designed to remain flexible in colder temperatures — and by that we mean 45 degrees or below — allowing the tire to grip the road more effectively. So even if you don’t live in an area that sees a lot of snow and ice but does see temperatures below 45 degrees, winter tires are worthy of consideration.
Winter can also be a tough time for your car battery. Cold temperatures negatively affect the electrical output of most vehicle batteries and, at the same time, many vehicles are harder to start in the winter. This implies that you should make certain your car’s battery is ready for cold weather. Amazingly, studies have shown that about half of America’s drivers fail to do that. Instead, they only replace their battery when it fails. If you allow that to happen in severe winter weather it could be life-threatening.
Instead, get your battery checked right now, before the worst of the winter weather hits. It’s a simple process, and if you go to one of the many Batteries Plus Bulbs locations across the country it’s also free. You can get a battery test and systems check without an appointment. If you need a battery, Batteries Plus Bulbs will do a free installation while you wait. That’ll only take about 20 minutes or so. They stock Duracell Ultra car and truck batteries, AGM batteries, plus a variety of light bulbs, wiper blades and other winter weather gear. You should also carry a portable battery charger in your trunk in case of an emergency.
Check your Fluids
Earlier, we alluded to the fact that a hard freeze could cost you thousands of dollars. The reason? If your engine’s antifreeze has lost its properties — as can happen over time — your engine block could freeze, resulting in catastrophic damage. The simple answer is to check all the fluids this time of year to ensure your car is prepared for the elements and to help avoid an unplanned road emergency.
How do you check your coolant? An easy solution is to let Jiffy Lube do it. They have locations all over the country, and they will be happy to check your antifreeze-coolant when you visit. You don’t need to schedule an appointment or wait in long lines. If you haven’t done a antifreeze-coolant flush-and-fill in the past two years, this is a good time to do so. While you’re at it, you might also get and oil and filter change. Getting oil that is appropriate for winter weather — check your owner’s manual for a recommendation — can help your engine start easier while doing a better job of lubricating vital parts that are prone to wear.
Another important aspect of winter driving is visibility…or the lack of it. During the winter we have fewer hours of daylight and, at the same time our headlights and windshields often get covered with gunk. Clearing ice and snow off your windshield, side and rear windows is a good first step toward safe winter driving.
Again, winter can be a challenging time for you and your car. Being prepared for bad weather will help keep you and your family safe and secure.