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Make Sure Your Car Is Ready For Winter

Image: City of Boston Archives, via Wikimedia Commons.

Robert Moore

Herald Staff

While winter is not officially supposed to start until Dec. 21, the thin blanket of white on your front lawn is a sign that winter is here. Motorists are advised to make sure their vehicles are ready for the cold weather to come.

David Thompson of Thompson’s Tire and Services Center on Chile Street are inspecting vehicles to make sure they’re winter ready. Thompson said they concentrate on a few key details, such as tires, heater and defrost systems, windshield wipers and batteries.

He said about a third of all batteries will probably test bad, even though they are still starting right up. That’s because, so far, temperatures are still in 70s. In October, there were only two days with an overnight low below 40 degrees, according to

Thompson said bad batteries generally don’t reveal themselves  until there have been sustained cold temperatures for over a week.

“That’ll finish them off, most of the time,” Thompson said.

It’s not enough to check the fluid level, he said. Motorists need to check to make sure the anti-freeze hasn’t been watered down.

“Make sure it’s fluid and not water,” Thompson said.

He also advises drivers to pay attention to what their cars are trying to tell them. Many younger motorists have no idea what it means when their dashboards start to light up. Until they break down.

“You need to check those instrument lights,” Thompson said.

All drivers need to make sure they give their vehicles enough time to warm up on cold days. Thompson said some vehicles, especially vehicles that have been left outside overnight when the weather might shift from freezing rain to snow, have a tendency to freeze up. Impatient motorists end up breaking their plastic door handles or tearing up their wiper blades while trying to clear their windshields.

“It’s basic, but a lot of people forget the basics,” Thompson said.

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet advises motorists to make sure their vehicles are stock with ice scrapers, jumper cables, blankets, a flashlight, cell phone charger, non-perishable snacks and first aid kit if you get stranded on the road.

Here are some tips to winterize your car:

• Test your battery; battery power drops as the temperature drops

• Make sure the cooling system is in good working order

• Have winter tires with a deeper, more flexible tread put on your car

• If using all-season tires, check the tread on your tires and replace if less than 2/32 of an inch

• Check the tire pressure; tire pressure drops as the temperature drops

• Check your wiper blades and replace if needed

• Add wiper fluid rated for -30 degrees

• Keep your gas tank at least half full to avoid gas line freeze

Remember to keep your car’s emergency preparedness kit fully stocked too.

Before You Start Out

• Clean your car’s external camera lenses and side view mirrors so you’ll be able to see what’s around you

• Remove dirt, ice and snow from sensors to allow the assistive-driving features like automatic emergency braking to work

• In frigid weather, you may want to warm up the car before you drive it

• To prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, never leave a vehicle running in your garage—even with the garage door up

• If the forecast looks iffy, wait out the storm if possible; if you must travel, share your travel plans and route with someone before you leave.

How to Avoid a Crash

The American Automobile Association offers the following driving tips:

• Avoid using cruise control in wintry conditions

• Steer in the direction of a skid, so when your wheels regain traction, you don’t have to overcorrect to stay in your lane

• Accelerate and decelerate slowly

• Increase following distance to 8 to 10 seconds

• If possible, don’t stop when going uphill

If visibility is severely limited due to a whiteout, pull off the road to a safe place and do not drive until conditions improve. Avoid pulling off onto the shoulder unless it is an absolute emergency. Limited visibility means other vehicles can’t see yours on the shoulder.

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