Preparation Is The Key To Safe Winter Driving

Driving in the Snow

Driving in winter weather can be a challenge. Even seasoned Michigan natives forget how bad the roads get after a storm, remembering only when we find ourselves skidding across an icy patch on Van Dyke. Before the holiday rush eats up your spare time, give some thought to being prepared for winter and the special driving hazards it brings.

An old saying tells us that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. That’s great advice when it comes to getting ready for icy roads. Even one hour spent going over your car can prevent an accident. Start by checking your lights: headlights, tail lights, flashers, brake lights, and any side lights you may have. In a storm lights may be the only thing on your vehicle other drivers can see, so make sure they’re all clean and working. Get your battery checked and replaced or recharged if it’s weak. We use more washer fluid in winter than any other time of the year, so top off the container with an anti-freeze fluid often.

Most people know to test their heater (no one wants to ride in a freezing cab) but the exhaust system is often overlooked. Make sure it’s sealed properly with no leaks. A faulty exhaust system puts you at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning. Check the exhaust pipe in the rear of your car for packed snow every week or so, since even the best exhaust system can’t work with a clogged pipe.

Winter tires are a great investment for people who live in medium to heavy snowfall zones. Put them on when the temperature drops below 45 degrees, since regular tires are too hard to get decent traction in the snow. Make sure you don’t mix tires types- if you have radial tires, use all radial tires. Putting snow tires on your drive wheels only makes your car brake and turn inconsistently. Also, measure the tire pressure whenever you fuel your car. Pressure drops as the temperature does, so you may need to inflate it more often than normal. Follow the pressure guidelines and tips given by your vehicle manufacturers if you need help.

When you’re headed out during a storm, watch your gas gauge. Winter means accidents, closed roads, and other traffic delays, so you can’t be sure how long your drive will be on any given day. If your route takes you between cities take the precaution of filling up before you leave. Don’t risk getting stuck in traffic without enough fuel to run the heater!

Keep a well-stocked winter driving kit in your car. This should have jumper cables, a combination snow brush and scraper, a bag of cat litter or salt, rubber mats for traction, a compact snow shovel for digging out of drifts, extra washer fluid, a flashlight with spare batteries, at least one blanket, warning triangles, maps, a first aid kit, spare clothing, and a pack of emergency food and water. You might also want to pack a battery-operated cell-phone charger. This might seem like overkill for driving around Macomb County, but chances are good you won’t remember to check the winter kit if you take a spur of the moment trip to Frankenmuth for schnitzel.

Never warm up your car in a tight closed area. Use a remote start or crack the garage door to keep carbon monoxide from building up.

For help getting winter ready, call the service department at Heidebreicht Chevrolet. We can check your car or just answer questions to help you drive safely this winter.

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