Friday, November 28, 2014

Snow rider: How to prepare a car for winter driving

For many people, the word “winter” conjures pretty images of sitting safe and snug by the fireplace, drinking hot cocoa while watching the snow falling outside their windows. However, there's nothing pretty about navigating the outdoors in the winter, especially when driving. Melted snow, sleet, and hail, and salt-covered roads make driving in winter a harrowing experience for many.

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Cars, just like houses, need to be prepared for the additional dangers that winter brings. Older cars, or those made before 1980, often need extensive, elaborate, and expensive winterizing. Thankfully newer cars do not require it. A few simple tweaks here and there can get cars ready for winter driving in no time.

Check the transmission fluid.

Older cars in areas where harsh winters are common are recommended to use low-viscosity motor oils intended for cold weather use. Heavier oils don't lubricate the moving parts of the engine as well as winter motor oils when it's cold and can expose the engine to damage and corrosion.

Check the windshield wipers.

Driving through snow entails heavy use of windshield wipers. Inspect the wipers for any damage and replace them if necessary, and make sure there's an adequate amount of windshield washer fluid with antifreeze solution.

Winterize Your Car
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Consider winter tires.

Driving in the winter means contending with dangerously slippery road conditions. Winter tires improve traction and grip on snow, sleet, and ice-covered roads.

There's a common misconception that winter tires are only needed when there's snow on the road. In reality, winter tires should be installed as soon as the temperature drops. If it's seven degrees or below, the rubber in all-season tires loses flexibility, leading to decreased traction on the road while winter tires remain flexible even in freezing conditions.

Check the battery.

Cold weather reduces car battery performance by up to 50 percent. As even the most powerful car won't start if the battery isn't charged and in good condition, it's a good idea to get car batteries tested and replaced if necessary to avoid being stranded by the roadside in the cold.

Winterize Your Car
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People living in warm climates generally do not have to worry about winterizing their cars. But for those who live in areas that experience cold, snowy winters, winterizing is a must for safe, accident-free driving.

Louis Campisano is an insurance professional from New Jersey. Like this Facebook page for discussions on winter driving and auto maintenance.