What Steps Should I Take to Prepare My Car for Winter? December 17, 2020
Winter officially begins on December 21, but certain parts of the country are already experiencing freezing temperatures, as well as snow, ice, and freezing rain. Driving during these extreme weather conditions can be treacherous, particularly if a motorist has not taken the necessary steps to prepare their vehicle for winter. Drivers who have not already done so should winterize their vehicles as soon as possible by making any necessary appointments with a mechanic and completing all recommended maintenance procedures so that their vehicle is ready to face the elements.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration, each year, over 1,300 people lose their lives, and another 116,000 are injured in car accidents caused by icy road conditions. In addition to the hazardous road conditions associated with winter weather, the extreme cold can damage cars. While severe weather is inevitable, drivers can avoid some weather-related car accident if they make sure that their vehicle is safe and prepared for severe winter weather.
How Do I Winterize My Vehicle?
By completing the following checklist, motorists will ensure that their vehicle is in good working order. This can help prevent their car from breaking down or being involved in a serious weather-related accident.
- Check the tires. Tire pressure can fluctuate when the temperatures plummet. During cold weather, the air pressure inside of a tire constricts, which can cause the tire to lose air. This can impact gas mileage and tire wear. Drivers should maintain tire pressure at between 30 and 35 pounds per square inch (PSI). Motorists should check their tire pressure on a weekly basis and inflate as necessary.
In addition to tire pressure, it is very important to check tire tread. One simple way to check tire tread is to perform the “Lincoln test,” which is done by inserting a penny into the tire’s tread. If Lincoln’s entire head is visible, it means that the tread is worn, and that the car owner should replace their tires before driving in the harsh winter weather. Motorists, who live in areas that generally get extreme winter weather, including heavy snow, ice, and freezing rain, should consider investing in snow tires and a set of chains.
- Check the car battery. Cold weather can cause a battery to lose its charge more quickly. Testing the battery before the winter will ensure that it is fully charged. Parking the vehicle in a garage, rather than outdoors during freezing weather, can help preserve the battery as well. A professional mechanic should check the battery’s fluid and cables.
- Have the brakes inspected. A car’s brakes undergo more wear and tear during the winter than any other season. Drivers should have a mechanic inspect them throughout the winter.
- Replace fluids. Brake fluids can get dirty, which can affect how well they work, so motorists should replace this fluid prior to the arrival of winter. Drivers should also use washer fluid that is made for winter weather, as other types of wipers fluids may freeze when temperatures drop.
- Replace wiper blades. When wintry weather brings snow, ice, and freezing rain, it is very important that the vehicle’s windshield wipers are working properly. Replacing the wipers is something that motorists can easily do, and the cost for new blades is usually under $20. A mechanic can also install them at a relatively low cost. Over the course of the season, wiper blades wear out, so it may be necessary to replace them more than once.
- Check the vehicle’s lights. It gets dark earlier during the winter, so it is important that all headlights, taillights, and brake lights are working properly. During heavy snow, rain, or winter fog, it is essential that motorists see other vehicles on the road.
- Check the cooling system. It is recommended that a mechanic flush and refill the vehicle’s cooling system, and check the level, concentration, and condition of the coolant. The system should have a 50/50 mixture of water and antifreeze.
What Safety Measures Should I Take to Avoid an Accident in the Winter?
In addition to ensuring that one’s vehicle has been properly maintained for the winter, there are additional important safety tips that drivers should keep in mind at all times during the winter, including the following:
- Check weather conditions before driving. Whether going on a long road trip or commuting to work, it is always a good idea to check the weather report before hitting the road. That way, drivers will know if road conditions are likely to be unsafe, in which case they should avoid driving if possible.
- Remove snow and ice from the car. If snow or ice has accumulated on the car, motorists should always clear it off the front and rear windshield, as well as the windows and side view mirrors, and the top of the car. If a large block of ice flies off the top of the car, it could hit another car and cause a serious accident.
- Reduce speed. Driving too fast during inclement weather conditions is very dangerous, particularly when roads are covered in snow or ice. If it is snowing, sleeting, or raining, driving the speed limit is probably too fast. Drivers are urged to give themselves extra travel time to reach their destination.
- Leave extra following distance. In addition to driving more slowly, motorists should increase the following distance between their car and the vehicle they are following. That way, if the car in front suddenly hits the brakes, the car that is following will have enough road space to slow down before hitting the other vehicle.
- Avoid slamming the brakes. Hitting the brakes too hard on slippery roads can cause a car to skid. To recover from a skid, turn into the direction that the car is spinning to regain control of the vehicle and pump the brakes gently. Press firmly on the brakes if the car is equipped with anti-lock brakes.
- Avoid distractions. Distracted driving is dangerous under any road conditions. However, it is particularly hazardous during inclement winter weather. Drivers must keep their attention focused on the road ahead, and avoid talking or texting on the phone, changing the radio, talking to other passengers in the vehicle, or reaching for something in the backseat. One moment of distraction can have devastating consequences if it causes an accident.
- Watch out for black ice. When the temperatures fall, thin, transparent ice can form on the pavement. This is known as black ice because it blends in with the color of the pavement, making it very difficult to see until it is too late. If a car hits a patch of black ice, a motorist should ease up on the gas and brakes and keep the wheel straight. If the car starts to fishtail, turn the wheel in the direction the car is spinning until the vehicle straightens out.
- Avoid using cruise control. Winter driving requires a driver’s full attention, so drivers should remain in complete control of the vehicle rather than use the cruise control feature.
- Wear a seat belt. Drivers and passengers should wear their seat belt at all times, but it is crucial to buckle up during inclement weather when there is an increased risk of a car accident.
What Do I Do if My Car Breaks Down?
Even when car owners take the appropriate precautions and make sure that their vehicle is properly maintained, things can go wrong. For example, a car can break down unexpectedly, stranding motorists during a snowstorm. If this happens, The Weather Channel offers the following tips:
- Call for help immediately. Some cell phones will automatically turn off if it gets too cold, so call for help right away.
- Make sure the exhaust pipe is not blocked by snow. If it is, clear any snow, dirt, or anything else that is blocking the pipe to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning to vehicle occupants.
- Turn the car on for short periods of time to keep the vehicle warm.
- Turn on the hazard lights or tie a brightly colored ribbon or piece of fabric on the car’s antenna.
- Do not leave the vehicle, unless there is a safe place to take shelter that is close to the car.
- Keep an emergency kit in the vehicle. This should include extra blankets, a flashlight, an extra cell phone charger, ice scraper, rock salt and/or kitty litter, jumper cables, bottled water, and non-perishable food.
Philadelphia Car Accident Lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP Advocate for Victims of Winter-Related Car Accidents
If you were injured in a car accident involving another driver who was negligent in some way, contact the Philadelphia car accident lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP as soon as possible. We will determine who is responsible for causing the accident and walk you through every step of the claims process. Our dedicated legal team will protect your rights and discuss the financial compensation you may be entitled to receive. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at 800-222-8792 or contact us online. With offices in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, Pennsylvania, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey, including Allentown and Harrisburg.