As February arrives, it may be tough for many of us to think about the fact that we still have plenty of winter weather still left to endure. Unfortunately, the conditions we may be facing in the weeks ahead can easily lead to car accidents.
Since the Federal Highway Administration reports that about 25 percent of all car accidents are caused by adverse weather conditions, it is a good time to take stock of your vehicle’s winter road-worthiness.
- Checking the ignition, brakes, wiring, hoses and fan belts.
- Changing and adjusting the spark plugs.
- Inspecting the distributor.
- Checking the battery and charging system.
- Checking the tires for proper air pressure, sidewall wear and tread depth and replacing any worn tires.
- Checking windshield wipers and replacing them as necessary (usually twice per year) and replacing windshield-wiper fluid with a wintertime mixture.
- Having the radiator system serviced, checking the antifreeze level yourself with an antifreeze tester and adding antifreeze as needed.
- Having your technician check the fuel, air, transmission and emission filters and the PVC valve.
- Making sure heaters and defrosters work properly.
- Making sure your car has a properly inflated spare tire, wheel wrench and tripod-type jack.
- Considering a change to “winter weight” oil and being diligent about changing the oil and filter at recommended intervals.
- Keeping the gas tank near full to help avoid ice in the tank and fuel lines.
The National Safety Council also recommends compiling an emergency kit that remains in the car. It should consist of:
- A shovel
- Jumper cables
- Tow and tire chains
- Salt or cat litter (to create friction if you get stuck in the snow or on ice)
- Tool kit
- Working flashlight and extra batteries
- Reflective triangles and brightly-colored cloth
- First aid kit
- Ice scraper and snow brush
- Wooden stick matches in a waterproof container
- Scissors and string/cord
- Non-perishable, high energy foods like unsalted canned nuts, dried fruits and hard candy
- A blanket, preferably wool
- Drinking water (to bring with you when you drive so that it does not freeze in between trips).
If your car should happen to break down, and you become stranded, do not leave it unless you know exactly where you are and how far it is to get help. In other words, you should be certain that leaving will improve your situation and not expose you to danger.
You can run your engine as you wait for help to arrive. Just make sure the car’s exhaust pipe is not blocked by snow or ice. Depending on the amount of gas in the tank, you can then run the engine and heater for about 10 minutes every hour or so to stay warm.
Also, keep at least one window open slightly. Heavy snow and ice can seal a car shut.
Hopefully, by taking these steps, you will be able to avoid any problems that may arise or, at least, be able to deal with them in the best way possible.