While we are still enjoying fall's bright colors and brisk air, drivers should remember they can never prepare their cars early enough for winter’s road conditions.
Winter drivers who want to keep their cars running in top form can take many precautions to ensure they get themselves and their families where they need to go safely: come snow, ice, slush, and rain.
1. Check your tires. As winter approaches, tires are the first things on your car that should be assessed by professionals.
Drivers who commute, regularly drive upstate and back, or take occasional road trips may have worn down their treads, which is what gives tires traction on the road.
“If the tread is worn down, the time it takes drivers to attempt to stop on slippery roads, ice, and snow will take much longer,” says David Bennett, manager of repair systems at the American Automobile Association (AAA). "New tires also can greatly reduce hydroplaning."
If you must replace one or more tires, or you would like to purchase winter tires, ask your auto care professional the size of your tires, and try to buy them yourself at Costco or through Amazon, where the prices will be much lower than auto shops and car dealers, the owner of an auto shop told BoroPark24.
When shopping for tires, buyers should choose tires that are mid-priced.
“Buy neither the most nor least expensive tires,” the auto shop owner advised. “Something right in the middle is fine.”
2. Check your tire pressure regularly. Not only can tires with low air pressure increase drivers’ chances of accidents on slippery roads, but severely deflated tires can blow out when they hit potholes, which are frequent road hazards in New York City.
To determine your car manufacturer’s recommended air pressure, check the sticker on your car’s front door or inside your trunk’s lid. Your tire pressure is also likely listed in your owner’s manual.
The best time to inspect tires is after your car has been parked for 30 minutes or more.
As temperatures start to decrease, drivers should be aware that each 10-degree drop in temperature results in a one-pound loss in air pressure, which can be replaced at most gas stations.
3. Test your battery before you are stranded somewhere in the cold and in need of another driver to provide your car with a jump-start.
Invest in stronger batteries for winter, when engines need “more juice” than usual to get going.
4. Use thinner oil in the winter, than is needed in the summer. In cold weather, engine oil thickens, making it more difficult for parts to turn and the engine to start, putting a strain on the starter and battery. To determine the best oil weight for your engine, check your owner’s manual.
5. Add coolant to the line on the side of your tank to the proper level to cool your engine to prevent overheating and extensive damage.
Sometimes called “antifreeze,” coolant absorbs engine heat and then redirects that heat through the radiator.
6. Check your car’s belts and hoses, which cold weather makes brittle and weak. Have your belts and hoses inspected for cracks, wear, and leaks.
Replace your car’s necessary equipment before you are stranded on the highway in the cold.
7. Activate your car’s all- or four-wheel drive, providing more traction in the snow. Traction is crucial when driving on slippery surfaces.
All-wheel drive systems provide equal power at the same time to all four wheels, which need the extra boost for the best control on roads that are covered with snow, rain, or ice.
8. Ensure your brakes are in top operating condition. Squeaking sounds or metal-against-metal noises when you apply your brakes are signs that your brakes need to be checked.
Other signs that your brakes are unsafe when you hit the brakes are when your car pulls to the right or the left, or the brake pedal pulsates.
With snow, ice, water, and slush on the way, any sign that your brakes are not in top form should send you right to a car service center for repairs.
If your brake pads are thin, they are worn down, and then your stopping distance will take longer, resulting, G-d forbid, in an accident.
9. Replace wiper blades with either new ones or blades that are more heavy-duty for winter when snow, slush, and salt quickly accumulate on your windshield.
In the winter, drivers’ lines of vision must remain crystal clear, but dry, brittle, and worn-out wiper blades won’t get the job done.
10. Refill your windshield cleaning fluid to quickly clean it no matter what hits it.
Whether a tractor-trailer on the highway sprays your view with slush, or you get stuck driving too close to a snowplow, you want to ensure you are prepared to wipe away whatever lands in your vision.
In the winter, choose cleaning fluids that will not freeze when the temperature hits zero or minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit.
To stay prepared, buy an extra gallon of windshield fluid to keep in your trunk in case you run out on the road and want to pull over, and quickly refill the container that is stored right under your hood.