ASK GARY: How do I prepare for winter driving?
There’s no denying it –the winter season is upon us. This time of year, I worry for the safety of my family, friends, and customers. Snow presents a flurry of problems that are sometimes unavoidable, even for seasoned New Englanders. However, we can be prepared, so here are some tips to think about while the roads are still clear.
1. Get any necessary repairs to your vehicle done immediately
Bad weather can greatly exacerbate any preexisting issues with your vehicle, when it’s most important for your vehicle to function properly. It can even cause further harm such as damaging the body of your automobile due to driving through the snow. Snow left on a vehicle is highly susceptible to rusting, and can be a very expensive problem to have later. Seasonal repairs should also include regularly scheduled maintenance, especially for headlights, brakes, and fluids. Check your windshield wiper fluid, and consider getting wiper blades designed to handle snow.
2. Keep an ice scraper in your car
While you could always leave your window defrosters on for half an hour, using an ice scraper is a far more effective way of cleaning up your windshield on a cold morning. After a snowfall, always be sure to remove any snow on the roof of your car; not only will the decrease in drag and weight improve fuel efficiency, but leaving debris on the roof of your car creates unsafe driving conditions (it’s also fineable offense).
3. Carry around sand in case of emergency
Traction is a major problem when driving in the snow, and getting stuck in a snow bank can make it painfully obvious why. If your vehicle ever gets stuck, remove any snow and ice near the tire, and then pour sand around the front and back of each tire. The sand should provide the extra traction to free your vehicle. Carrying sandbags in your tire might be the simplest way to take this precaution.
4. Pay close attention to your tires
One of the most dangerous parts of winter driving is suddenly losing control of your vehicle, typically due to loss of traction. Since your wheels are (hopefully!) your only point of contact with the road, it pays to keep a careful eye out for them. Now might be the time to start looking for winter tires, which have tread patterns designed to perform in snow. A more adaptable solution might be to carry around tire chains for periodic use, although these should not be used in speeds excess of 30 mph. Tire pressure is also especially important to maintain in this season, because every drop in temperature will also correspond with a drop in pressure.
5. Update your emergency kit
Don’t forget to add warm clothes and blanket to your car’s roadside emergency kit.
As always, drive safe!