A semi regular outpouring of all things cars and collision including, but not limited to opinions, peeves and ponderings brought to you by Rex Impact of Collision Centers of America.
So You Think You Know From Winter Driving?
Well, you might … but consider these before you actually DO any driving.
Make sure your rear defroster really works.
In almost every state, the law requires that your windows be clear of frost and condensation before you actually drive your car. Of course, you can always use an old Collision Centers of America T-Shirt on the rear windows to wipe off the fog – as long as you pull over and do it again every few minutes. But having a working rear defroster is probably still your best bet!
Sand Bags, They’re Not Just For Rising Water You Know.
Sand bags (or cat litter for that matter) can add just that extra bit of weight in the rear end especially for a rear wheel drive car or truck. An extra 20lbs or so (don’t over do it as it may spoil your steering ability) placed in the trunk as far back as possible may be just what the traction doctor ordered. In a pinch, if stuck in a snow bank, you can rip open your bag for a little ground grabbing action too.
Check Your Washer Fluid … No Really, Go Check It Now While It’s Fresh In Your Mind.
On a wet, wintry day, you can easily go through half a gallon of windshield washer fluid on the way to and from work! So it is not a bad idea to keep extra fluid in your trunk. Buy the good stuff too – not that watered down stuff outside your local gas station! Even if you do buy the good stuff, here in Chicagoland, you also may need to supplement your windshield washer fluid with an additive. Yes, Vodka will work, but unless old Rex here is your designated driver, you’d best keep that out of your car. Concentrates are available in pint bottles and work very well at extremely low temperatures, look for it at your favorite auto parts store.
Try A Block Heater For Those Sub-Zero Windy City Mornings.
For about $100, I can almost guarantee your car will start even on those mornings when your tongue would freeze to the bumper (yes it will .. I’ve tried it). A small electric engine heater that plugs in to your home’s wiring via a regular, 120 volt AC plug at night is required equipment for diesel engines in frozen climates. But it can also be used on regular gasoline engines, too. And as a side benefit, you’ll have instant heat in the morning. One thing I should point out: If you do get a block heater, remember to UNPLUG IT before you drive away from your house … yep, did that too.
Top Off That Tank.
In the summer, you can risk running a little low on gas. But in the winter, if you do get stuck or stranded, your car’s engine will be your only source of heat. And while we all want to “Be Green”, worrying about conserving fuel and saving the planet might not be top of mind when you are freezing … you just want to stay warm and you’ll need gasoline for that. You can idle the engine to stay warm for as long as you have gas and no harm will be done to your engine. A word to wise though … crack your window slightly if you are idling, so as to prevent any accidental build up of carbon monoxide .. I don’t like losing readers that way.
If You Must Drive in Bad Weather – Go SloMo.
Even with good coolant, snow tires, stability control, all-wheel drive, ABS brakes, a back up camera and a bag of Kitty Litter in the trunk, keep in mind that Snow Driving means Slow Driving. Snow, sleet, and ice are treacherous and even if you maintain control of your car, not everyone else will. Do everything slowly. In the snow, your tires are always just barely grabbing the road. Accelerate slowly and gently, turn slowly and gently, and brake slowly and gently. To do this, you have to anticipate turns and stops. So leave plenty of distance between you and the car in front of you. Rapid movements lead to skids and loss of control. Drive as if there were eggs taped to the gas and brake pedals – step on the gas and the brake so gently that you wouldn’t break the eggshell.
If you are nervous about driving in winter, practice. Go to an empty parking lot and try putting your car into a skid on purpose. Slam on the brakes, then practice turning into the skid and see what happens – practice until you’re comfortable regaining control of the car. Do this in a large, empty parking lot (preferably without light poles) during the daylight. This will give you the chance to skid without ending up looking up into the eyes of two cops and an EMT. The more comfortable you are maintaining control and regaining control, the better a winter driver you’ll be. Oh, and one more thing. Don’t forget your cell phone and charger so you can kill time playing Angry Birds™ while you’re waiting for the tow truck.
I hope these tips were helpful and if they were, please pass them on. If you feel like dropping me a line or just commenting on my ramblings … please do so in the space provided below. Until next time …
See you at the corner …