Be Prepared Before Hitting the Roads This Winter
NHTSA urges owners to take their vehicles in for a tune-up and to conduct routine maintenance
With the winter driving season upon us, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is urging motorists to take precautionary measures to ensure that all vehicles are in optimal driving condition and properly equipped, especially for inclement weather.
In particular, NHTSA urges owners to take their vehicles in for a tune-up and to conduct routine maintenance—first and foremost making certain that tires are in top shape and that windshield wipers and defrosters work properly.
Preparing Your Vehicle for Winter
To ensure that your vehicle is ready for the road this winter, NHTSA recommends that you do the following:
- Visit your mechanic for a periodic safety inspection and to address routine vehicle maintenance. Have your vehicle checked thoroughly for fluid leaks and any other needed parts, repairs, or replacements.
- Have your starting system battery checked for sufficient voltage. When the temperature drops, so does battery power. Be aware that it takes more cranking power to start your vehicle in cold weather. Also, be sure the connections are properly tightened and free of corrosion. If necessary, clean them with a solution of baking soda and water.
- Make sure you have enough coolant in your vehicle and that it's designed to withstand the winter temperatures you might experience in your area. A 50/50 mix of coolant to water is sufficient for most regions of the country. See your vehicle owner's manual for specific recommendations.
- If your engine cooling system hasn't been flushed (draining the system and replacing the coolant) for several years, have it done now. Over time, the rust inhibitors in antifreeze break down and become ineffective. Coolant also needs to be refreshed periodically to remove dirt and rust particles that can clog the cooling system and cause it to fail.
- Make sure your windshield wipers and defrosters are working properly. Refill the windshield washer reservoir as needed with high-quality, "no-freeze" washer fluid.
- Before you drive, remove snow and ice from all of your vehicle's windows and mirrors and keep them clean to maintain the best visibility. Also, be sure to clear snow and ice from your vehicle's roof and hood to ensure good visibility for both you and following motorists.
- Check tire pressure and make sure each tire is filled to the vehicle manufacturer's recommended inflation pressure, which is listed in your owner's manual and on a placard located on the driver's side doorjamb (called the "B-pillar"). If a vehicle does not have a B-pillar, then the placard is placed on the rear edge of the driver's door.
- Check your tire tread depth and make sure you are using a tire appropriate for the winter driving conditions you may encounter. If the winter season means sleet, slush and snow-covered roads in your area, consider replacing tires when they reach approximately 5/32" of remaining tread depth. If you regularly encounter severe winter driving conditions, you may consider a dedicated winter/snow tire for optimum traction.
- Stock your vehicle with essentials in the event of an emergency including a snow shovel, broom, ice scraper, jumper cables, flashlight, warning devices (flares, reflective markers, etc.) and blankets for protection from the cold.
- If road conditions are hazardous, wait until road and weather conditions improve before venturing out in your vehicle.
- If you do become stranded, don't run your car for long periods with the windows up or in an enclosed space to avoid asphyxiation from carbon monoxide poisoning. If you must run your vehicle, clear the exhaust pipe of any snow and run it only sporadically – just long enough to stay warm.
Motorists are also reminded to make safety their number one priority when they drive by bringing in their vehicle for a free fix when it's been recalled—never driving distracted or drunk—wearing seatbelts at all times—and always obeying all state traffic laws.