Protecting cars in the winter starts under the hood John Gottilla, owner of Automotive Experts in Rock Island, said Tuesday.
“The first thing we like to do is check your freezing protection level, starting with your antifreeze levels,” Gottilla said.
He said antifreeze and oil levels, along with tire pressure are crucial during the cold months. It’s also important to maintain air tire pressure about 3 to 4 pounds below what’s recommended for your car, he said.
“Pressure is very important with traction and so is the tread wear on your tires. You want to make sure if you haven’t rotated your tires, go ahead and put the good tires up front, if you’re riding around in a front wheel drive vehicle,” he said.
Paying attention to your car’s battery can save you from being stranded.
“Most batteries can withstand cold temperatures,” he said. He said if the battery is weak and has problems when cold weather starts, then the battery should be changed.
Benjamin Wallace, a manager at Midwest Motorsports in Rock Island, said it’s important to keep an emergency car kit on hand once it gets cold.
“The number one thing I see people doing wrong is just lack of preparation. Any car can go into a ditch. Any car can go off the road. So having a safety kit in the vehicle is probably the best thing a person can do,” he said.
The items are things Illinois State Trooper Elizabeth Clausing says could be life savers if you get stuck in a ditch.
“You’ll ensure that you can help yourself out until law enforcement or first responders can arrive on the scene. Because, as we all know, during winter weather, it’s hard for anyone to travel on the roadways,” Clausing said.
AAA recommends the following tips while driving in snowy and icy conditions:
Cold Weather Driving Tips
- Keep a bundle of cold-weather gear in your car, such as extra food and water, warm clothing, a flashlight, a glass scraper, blankets, medications, and more.
- Make certain your tires are properly inflated and have plenty of tread.
- Keep at least half a tank of fuel in your vehicle at all times.
- Never warm up a vehicle in an enclosed area, such as a garage.
- Do not use cruise control when driving on any slippery surface, such as on ice and snow.
Tips for Driving in the Snow
- Stay home. Only go out if necessary. Even if you can drive well in bad weather, it’s better to avoid taking unnecessary risks by venturing out.
- Drive slowly. Always adjust your speed down to account for lower traction when driving on snow or ice.
- Accelerate and decelerate slowly. Apply the gas slowly to regain traction and avoid skids. Don’t try to get moving in a hurry and take time to slow down for a stoplight. Remember: It takes longer to slow down on icy roads.
- Increase your following distance to five to six seconds. This increased margin of safety will provide the longer distance needed if you have to stop.
- Know your brakes. Whether you have antilock brakes or not, keep the heel of your foot on the floor and use the ball of your foot to apply firm, steady pressure on the brake pedal.
- Don’t stop if you can avoid it. There’s a big difference in the amount of inertia it takes to start moving from a full stop versus how much it takes to get moving while still rolling. If you can slow down enough to keep rolling until a traffic light changes, do it.
- Don’t power up hills. Applying extra gas on snow-covered roads will just make your wheels spin. Try to get a little inertia going before you reach the hill and let that inertia carry you to the top. As you reach the crest of the hill, reduce your speed and proceed downhill slowly.
- Don’t stop going up a hill. There’s nothing worse than trying to get moving up a hill on an icy road. Get some inertia going on a flat roadway before you take on the hill.
Tips for Long-Distance Winter Trips
- Be Prepared: Have your vehicle checked by a AAA Approved Auto Repair facility before hitting the road.
- Check the Weather: Check the weather along your route and when possible, delay your trip if bad weather is expected.
- Stay Connected: Before hitting the road, notify others and let them know your route, destination and estimated time of arrival.
- If you get stuck in the snow:
- Stay with your vehicle: Your vehicle provides temporary shelter and makes it easier for rescuers to locate you. Do not try to walk in a severe storm. It is easy to lose sight of your vehicle in blowing snow and become lost.
- Don’t over exert yourself: When digging out your vehicle, listen to your body and stop if you become tired.
- Be Visible: Tie a brightly colored cloth to the antenna of your vehicle or place a cloth at the top of a rolled up window to signal distress. At night, keep the dome light on if possible. It only uses a small amount of electricity and will make it easier for rescuers to find you.
- Clear the Exhaust Pipe: Make sure the exhaust pipe is not clogged with snow, ice or mud. A blocked exhaust pipe can cause deadly carbon monoxide gas to leak into the passenger compartment of the vehicle while the engine is running.
- Stay Warm: Use whatever is available to insulate your body from the cold. This could include floor mats, newspapers or paper maps. Pre-pack blankets and heavy clothing to use in case of an emergency.
- Conserve Fuel: If possible, only run the engine and heater long enough to remove the chill. This will help to conserve fuel.
Keep the below items in a bag in your trunk. Ideally, we’d suggest keeping these items in a clear, plastic container so it’s easy to see and locate everything. You can buy a pre-packaged kit or create your own.
In an emergency situation, in addition to a full tank of gas and fresh antifreeze, the National Safety Council recommends having these with you at all times:
- Blankets, mittens, socks and hats
- Ice scraper and snow brush
- Flashlight, plus extra batteries (or a hand-crank flashlight)
- Jumper cables
- First-aid kit (band-aides, adhesive tape, antiseptic wipes, gauze pads, antiseptic cream, medical wrap). See a first-aid kit checklist.
- Bottled water
- Multi-tool (such as a Leatherman multi-tool or a Swiss Army knife)
- Road flares or reflective warning triangles
- Windshield cleaner
Extra Supplies for Frigid Weather
For those in wintry snowy areas, add the below items to your emergency kit. (If it’s balmy all winter where you live, be thankful that you don’t need all of this stuff!)
- A bag of sand to help with traction (or bag of non-clumping cat litter)
- Collapsible or folding snow shovel
- Tire chains and tow strap
- Hand warmers
- Winter boots for longer trips
- Sleeping bag for longer trips
Note: Use salt for de-icing driveways and roads. (Excess salinity can damage vegetation and contaminate groundwater, however. So, with this in mind, salt your driveway only when you must, and try not to use more than necessary.)
- Small fire extinguisher (5-lb., Class B and Class C type) in case of a car fire
- Tire gauge to check inflation pressure in all four tires and the spare tire
- Jack and lug wrench to change a tire
- Rags and hand cleaner (such as baby wipes)
- Duct tape
- Foam tire sealant for minor tire punctures
- Rain poncho
- Nonperishable high-energy foods such as unsalted and canned nuts, granola bars, raisins and dried fruit, peanut butter, hard candy.
- Battery– or hand-crank–powered radio
- Lighter and box of matches (in a waterproof container)
- Scissors and string or cord
- Spare change and cash
- Paper maps