Beating Winter's Icy Grip

2013-12-04T12:17:00Z Beating Winter's Icy GripBy Jim Gorzelany CTW Features
December 04, 2013 12:17 pm  • 

Those hitting the road to visit friends or family need to take the proper precautions to ensure their vehicles are up to the task

It’s that time of the year again, when the weather in much of the country has turned wintry and millions take to the roads for year-end holiday travel. Whether you’re a long time resident of the Snow Belt or will be venturing into icy territory for the annual trek “over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house,” it’s prudent to prepare the family car to handle the worst Mother Nature can dish out.

For starters, the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence in Leesburg, Va., advises motorists to ensure their cars are sufficiently roadworthy by having any engine performance and drivability problems corrected, including hard starts, rough idling, stalling and diminished power. Cold weather makes existing problems worse. Also, have dirty air, fuel and oil filters replaced and change the oil before hitting the road and have the brakes checked.

Have the cooling system flushed and refilled with a fresh 50/50 mix of antifreeze and water to ensure proper cold weather engine protection. Check the heater and defroster to ensure they’re in good working condition. Change the wiper blades, using rubber-clad winter blades to combat icy buildups. Ensure there’s at least one full jug of antifreeze windshield wiper solvent in the trunk – it goes more quickly than many motorists anticipate in winter months – and be sure to carry a good-quality ice scraper.

Be sure to have your car’s battery checked by a technician to ensure it will last the winter with its full cranking power intact. At the least, make sure the battery contacts are clean and free from corrosion; if you see a white powder at the contacts, clean them off with a wire brush. Inspect all lights and bulbs and replace any that are burned out; if the headlamp lenses have turned cloudy, buy an aftermarket restoration kit to return them to full illumination.

The ASE further recommends travelers maintain the proper air pressure in their tires as recommended by the automaker and to examine the tread for excessive wear before embarking. Insert a penny into the tread, and if you can see the top of Lincoln’s head (or see horizontal warning bands running across the tread) it’s time to replace the tire. If your car is equipped with so-called “summer” performance tires, have them swapped out for a set of all-season tires. Those with rear-drive cars living in or traveling to northern climates should consider switching to a set of deep-tread snow tires.

No less an authority than the North Dakota Department of Transportation suggests winter travelers always carry a cell phone and ensure friends or relatives know when they’re leaving, the route they’re traveling and their expected arrival time. Never hit the road with less than a full tank of gas and be sure to dress according to weather conditions.

Be sure to pack a “survival kit” just in case climactic conditions render roads impassible. At the least this should include blankets and warm clothing, drinking water and cups, a radio and flashlight with extra batteries, reading materials to help stay awake, toilet tissue, nylon rope and a bright red or orange cloth and a sufficiently loud whistle to signal for help.

The NDDOT further advises those traversing areas that tend to get heavy snow and/or sub-zero temperatures to stock the trunk with battery booster cables, gas-line antifreeze, a tow rope, tire chains and a container of sand or cat litter to help give spinning tires traction should a car get stuck on a slick road.

It may sound like a lot of work, but taking the proper precautions will help ensure you’ll reach your destination safely and make the trip memorable – for all the right reasons.

© CTW Features

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