Winter in Colorado is as unpredictable as it comes. One day we could have 60 degrees while we are golfing, the next day we could have 8 inches of snow, (see last week.) This is the reason that you must be prepared for whatever Colorado can throw at you. At Colorado Auto Body we meet by accident, but we would rather have much less of these meetings. Here are a few winter driving tips from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Get your car serviced now
No one wants to break down in any season, but especially not in cold or snowy winter weather. Start the season off right by ensuring your vehicle is in optimal condition. Visit your mechanic for a tune-up and other routine maintenance.
- Have your entire vehicle checked thoroughly for leaks, bad worn hoses, or other needed parts, repairs, and replacements.
Check your battery
When the temperature drops, so does battery power. For gasoline-powered engines, be aware that it takes more battery power to start your vehicle in cold weather than in warm. For electric and hybrid vehicles, the driving range is reduced and the battery systems work better after they warm up. Make sure your battery is up to the challenges of winter by:
- Having your mechanic check your battery for sufficient voltage;
- Having the charging system and belts inspected; »
- Replacing the battery or making system repairs, including simple things like tightening the battery cable connections;
- Making sure to keep fresh gasoline in an electric vehicle, to support the gasoline system.
Check your cooling system
When coolant freezes it expands. This expansion can potentially damage your vehicle’s engine block. Don’t let this happen to your vehicle this winter. You should:
- Make sure you have enough coolant in your vehicle and that it’s designed to withstand the winter temperatures you might experience in your area.
- See your vehicle owner’s manual for specific recommendations on coolant. A 50/50 mix of coolant to water is sufficient for most regions of the country.
- Thoroughly check the cooling system for leaks or have your mechanic do it for you.
- Check to see if your system has been flushed (draining the system and replacing the coolant). If it hasn’t been flushed for several years, have it done now. Over time, the rust inhibitors in antifreeze break down and become ineffective. Coolant also needs to be refreshed periodically to remove dirt and rust particles that can clog the cooling system and cause it to fail.
Fill your windshield washer reservoir.
You can go through a lot of windshield wiper fluid fairly quickly in a single snowstorm, so be prepared for whatever Mother Nature might send your way.
- Completely fill your vehicle’s reservoir before the first snow hits.
- Use high-quality, “no-freeze” fluid.
- Buy extra to keep on hand in your vehicle. Check your windshield wipers and defrosters. Safe winter driving depends on achieving and maintaining the best visibility possible.
- Make sure your windshield wipers work and replace worn blades.
- Consider installing heavy-duty winter wipers if you live in an area that gets a lot of snow and ice.
Check to see that your window defrosters (front and rear) work properly.
If this is how you look when you start your commute, there is something wrong!
Verify floor mat installation to prevent pedal interference
Incorrect or improperly installed floor mats in your vehicle may interfere with the operation of the accelerator or brake pedal, increasing the risk of a crash. Remember these tips when installing new floor mats to ensure safe operation of your vehicle:
- Remove old mats before the installation of new mats.
- Never stack mats, as that may increase the potential for pedal interference.
- Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for mat installation and use the available retention clips to secure the mat in the proper position. This will prevent the mat from sliding forward.
- Check that the mats are the correct size and fit for the vehicle and do not interfere with the full operation of the foot controls (accelerator, brake and clutch pedals). Whenever the interior of the vehicle is cleaned or the mats have been removed for any reason, verify that the driver mat has been re installed correctly.
Inspect your tires
If you plan to use snow tires, have them installed before the snow storms hit. Check out www.safercar.gov for tire ratings before buying new ones. For existing tires, check to ensure they are properly inflated (as recommended by your vehicle manufacturer), the tread is sufficient with no uneven wear, and that the rubber is in good overall condition. Note that tire rubber starts to degrade after several years, and older tires need to be replaced even if they have not seen much wear. Regardless of season, you should inspect your tires at least once a month and always before setting out on a long road trip. It only takes about five minutes. If you find yourself driving under less-than-optimal road conditions this winter, you’ll be glad you took the time. »
- Check tire pressure and make sure each tire is filled to the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended inflation pressure, which is listed in your owner’s manual and on a placard located on the driver’s side doorjamb (called the “B-pillar”). If a vehicle does not have a B-pillar, then the placard is placed on the rear edge of the driver’s door. Tire pressure drops as the temperature drops. Properly inflated tires ensure optimum tire performance and optimum vehicle driving range.
- Keep a tire pressure gauge in your vehicle at all times and check pressure when tires are “cold” — meaning they haven’t been driven on for at least three hours.
- Look closely at your tread and replace tires that have uneven wear or insufficient tread. Tread should be at least 1/16 of an inch or greater on all tires.