Winter driving can be treacherous in most parts of the country, with snow, ice and freezing temperatures making roads especially hazardous.
The experts at Cottman Transmission and Total Auto Care, a nationwide automotive service and repair network of licensed centers, offer simple tips to keep your car running smoothly and safely during the winter months ahead.
Traction and visibility are major factors to consider in winter, said Joe Josko, regional director for Cottman. “Too many people neglect their tires, so be sure your tires are safe, with good tread.” He cautions against relying on so-called “high-performance tires” that come with some sporty cars. “They don’t perform well in heavy rain and snow.” He recommends all-season tires with good tread.
Even the best tires can lose traction on ice, so the experts at Cottman recommend keeping extra salt or sand in the car and also keep a piece of old carpeting in the trunk, so if you get stuck you can place the carpet in front of the drive wheels to give the tires something to grab onto to help get the car moving.
Visibility is crucial, especially in winter weather. Paul Dintino, a regional director for Cottman, said it’s important to keep the windows clear. “Replace wiper blades with winter-style blades, which do a better job of keeping the windshield clear,” he suggested. Refill the washer fluid and keep spare fluid in the car.
Dintino said it’s important to wipe snow and grime from headlights and tail lights. Ice and remnants of snow on lights can substantially diminish forward visibility and make it difficult for drivers to see your vehicle.
The other major winter problem is weak or dead batteries. The Cottman experts recommend a simple load test to be sure the battery has ample power for cold-weather starts. They also suggest having the battery terminals cleaned to permit maximum power to flow from the battery to the starter.
Anti-freeze should be checked for the winter, to protect radiator and engine block from freezing and cracking, which can lead to very costly repair jobs.
Dintino says advance preparation is a key element in winter driving safety. Seemingly small things like keeping a lock de-icer product in your coat or purse can help keep you from getting locked out. Keep extra sweaters and blankets in the car to keep you warm if you get stranded. Flares can help warn other drivers if you get stuck and can also draw the attention of police to help you.
Don’t speed and drive extra carefully in winter weather. Slow down on curves and be vigilant for black ice.
The Cottman experts suggest drivers check their owner’s manuals to see what specific steps are recommended for winter care for their vehicle.
“Some advance planning and extra caution can keep your car running safely during tough winter months,” Dintino said.