Cold conditions drain power and require increased traction, requiring increased maintenance during winter months. A few easy steps at the beginning of the season can keep drivers out of the snow berm.
"Check your fluids first," said SSgt. Richard W. Moore, a vehicle maintenance technician assigned to the 633rd Logistics Readiness Squadron here. "In the winter you mainly want to use a 60% coolant to 40% water ratio. It helps in the mornings with cold starting."
The oil in your engine changes depending on how hot or cold the engine is running. Because the outside temperatures will influence the internal temperature of your engine, you need to make sure you're using the proper oil for the conditions. "You want to make sure your wipers are winter grade, too," said Moore.
ACC suggests using a checklist, like the one below, to prevent or prepare for winter accidents and breakdowns.
· Warm your car up before driving to prevent damage to the engine and fuel system
· Have the battery tested; check the cables, terminals, and fluid level
· Ensure all battery connections are tight and clear of corrosion
· Checking your tire treads and sidewalls to ensure there is no damage
· Having seasonally specialized tires on your vehicle can be your best advantage when traveling during winter
· All-season tires are one option but you may lose some benefits that a seasonal tire may give i.e. fuel efficiency and traction
· High performance winter tires use directional and asymmetric treads for extra handling and protect against hydroplaning
· Studdable winter tires are banned in some states. Studless winter tires are the more common style purchased
· Use tire chains if necessary
"If you're going to change your tires you should get all four," Moore said.
Moore also suggested paying special attention to windshields, as visibility is critical to safe driving. "Try to pick a windshield washer fluid that contains an antifreeze solution to help with the ice and grime that can be tossed up by vehicles driving in front of you," he said. "The washer fluid can freeze during the winter, so use one with a lower freezing temperature."
Another area to be aware of are door locks. Though most vehicles today can be unlocked remotely it is a good idea to have glycerol somewhere accessible if needed for de-icing. Glycerol can be found in most discount stores, auto parts stores, and hardware stores.
Even if you have taken every precaution accidents can still happen on the road. It is best to be prepared for these situations by keeping an emergency kit in your vehicle.
Tools such as a screwdriver, pliers, small shovel, hammer and wrench can be useful when you get into an icy bind. Some other items that may come in handy are extra engine oil, coolant and washer fluid. An emergency kit should include a flashlight, radio, ice scraper with a brush, spare clothing, blankets, safety flares, food/ water, a funnel and sand or kitty litter.
"Check all of your lights, especially the hazards," Moore said. "You don't want to be stuck on the road in the middle of the night without those. "
Other safety tips to consider are adding a deicer to your fuel to keep moisture in the fuel system from freezing. Clean your fuel system and if possible keep your fuel tank half full or more.
Inspect your air filter, rubber hoses and drive belts and replace as necessary. "The belts can get real slick on the side and start to crack," Moore said.
"It's always good to look at the manual and have a mechanic check your vehicle," Moore said.