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Winter Driving Tips
By Joe Thompson
Winter is harsh on motorists and vehicles. To make it a bit easier for drivers to drive through cold conditions, the Automobile Club of Southern California advises motorists to take extra precautions and make sure their vehicles are prepared for cold weather.
Here are some cold-weather driving and car care tips from AAA to keep you safe on the road this season:
Charge! - Cold weather is tough on batteries. At zero degrees Fahrenheit, a car's battery loses about 60 percent of its strength. At a mild 32 degrees Fahrenheit, a battery is 35 percent weaker. Keeping battery terminals clean helps, but a load test performed by a qualified automotive technician will help determine whether a car's battery is strong enough for winter starts.
Get a Grip - Make sure your car is equipped with tires that are able to handle your region's winter weather. Check the tire tread. Good tread allows water to escape from under the tires and increases traction. Keep tires at proper pressure. A chart with the manufacturer's recommended inflation pressure can be found on the driver side door jamb, inside the glove box, or on the fuel filler flap. For most motorists, all-season tires are adequate. In northern or mountainous regions, switching to snow tires may be needed. Motorists also should observe storm watch advisories that urge the use of snow chains or they may risk being turned around by law enforcement, getting stuck in the snow, or even in a major crash.
See and Be Seen - Danger must be visible to be avoided. Driving with a snow-covered windshield, windows, side-view mirrors or lights invites a crash. Clear windows, mirrors and lights with an ice scraper, brush or spray de-icer. Make certain windshield wipers and defrosters are in good working order and the window washer reservoirs are filled with no-freeze windshield washer fluid. To make sure your vehicle is seen by other drivers,
be sure to use your headlights, but not your bright headlights, unless absolutely necessary.
Keep Your Engine Cool - Make certain cooling system anti-freeze is mixed with an equal portion of water for maximum protection.
Key Solution - Frozen door locks can be overcome by carefully heating the end of a key with a match or lighter. A squirt of de-icer spray is another quick method.
Slippery When Wet - In temperatures at or just above 32 degrees, a thin layer of water can cover the ice, causing extremely slippery conditions. The distance needed to stop on ice at 32 degrees is twice as long as at zero degrees. Slow down and use extra caution when passing other vehicles.
Steer Clear - Steering is preferred to braking at speeds above 25 mph because less distance is required to steer around an object than to brake to a stop. Sudden braking often leads to skids. Increase following distance. The extra distance provides a buffer in case of skids.
Air it Out - Don't let frigid temperatures tempt you into starting your car in a closed garage or idling your engine for long periods with the windows closed. Carbon monoxide, present in exhaust fumes, is almost impossible to detect and can be fatal when breathed in a confined area. Make sure those exhaust parts are in good shape too.
Finish Up - Road salt, slush and grime are especially hard on a car's finish. To help prevent rust and paint damage, keep cars washed and waxed. A full or self-service car wash makes the job easier when temperatures are low.
Joe Thompson is the owner of a successful auto
body shop in Ferndale, California. This 38 year old is also a prolific
writer, contributing automotive related articles to various publications.