I recently wrote of making necessary mental adjustments for winter driving. Drivers who adopt a winter-wariness will improve their chances of seasonal driving success. Similarly, vehicles receiving advance preparation will offer increased dependability during harsh winter elements.
If you are an owner who regularly pampers your ride, there may be little to do. But if you lean toward deferred maintenance, now is the time to catch up. Attention to the following basics will help you avoid trouble in the midst of winter’s fury.
If your blades don’t swipe a clean swath, replace them. Modern designs with plastic frames help deter ice buildup and supplant original blades without modification. Be sure to use a non-freezing solution in the washer reservoir.
If it’s over six years old, replace it. Otherwise, have it checked during you next oil change. Consider a trickle charger, especially if your vehicle sits many days without use.
This solution, typically known as “coolant,” offers freeze protection to about -34 degrees Fahrenheit in a 50/50 mix with water. Freeze protection remains unchanged from year to year absent leaks or water dilution. Have the protection level checked if you are uncertain or suspect the system has been corrupted.
This should be an ongoing procedure, but is especially important now due to winter’s reduced daylight and other hazardous conditions. Check brake lights along with high/low beams, signals and 4-way emergency flashers.
Regardless of your tire choice, their tread should have at least 50 percent of depth remaining. For most tires, that means 6/32nds of an inch or more. To me, tires with less than 5/32nds of an inch of remaining tread should be discarded in any season. In winter, the Washington State Patrol requires any car travelling across a mountain pass to have a minimum of 4/32nds of an inch of tread depth. Check for proper inflation, as tire pressure drops with the temperature.
The general rule for these rubber items is that they not be overly soft (squishy) or too hard (brittle), and they should definitely not have cracks. Replace any over-aged or otherwise suspicious hoses and belts.
If you are uncertain of when your vehicle last had brake service, or are unaware of the amount of friction material remaining, have a technician check the system.
Winter emergency kit
Everyone has their own idea of what extra items to haul along in preparation for potential winter mishaps. When emergencies happen, you’ll welcome what you have — more than you need is likely better than not enough.
Typical items: flashlight, gloves, boots, shovel, jumper cables, chains, traction sand, tools, first-aid, blankets, flares, ice scraper and cell phone. Snack foods such as trail mix or granola bars are also advisable.
Once you’ve taken care of everything else, apply a coat of wax to your vehicle’s paint finish — it will help shun the effects of the thousands of gallons of liquid de-icer that is about to be spread.
Plan your trips
Check weather and road conditions before departing. A well-prepared driver and vehicle can negotiate wintry roads in nearly all conditions, but the WSP’s advice should be heeded. They say, “If road and weather conditions are not favorable and you do not have to go out, stay home. If you must go out, be prepared and be patient.”
Readers may contact Bill Love via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.