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    Winter driving safety tips

        Written by Archie Varone from A and J Auto Maintenance Center

        The leaves are falling, that can only mean that winter is just around the corner!  Winter driving coul  be considered a battle between you, your car and old man winter.  Are you ready?  With a small amount of knowledge, you can emerge victorious this spring with your vehicle, wallet and sanity intact.

        So flex your automotive knowledge muscles with these winter safety tips …


(1)   Start with the basics.  Hoses, belts, plugs, wires and air filters should all be checked and replaced if necessary.  The small things could become big things fast in cold temperatures.  Also, a smooth running engine affords economy, reliability and security.


(2)   Check those tires.  Not all tires are created equal.  Just because it looks like there’s tread on those “round things”, doesn’t mean they will give you the much needed traction to drive safely.  A good winter tire will have deep, wide grooves that start in the center and make their way out to the edge so that snow and slush can be thrown out from under them.  The deeper the tread, the better traction you can get.  Air pressure is crucial; over or under inflated tires won’t work as well.  A proper alignment and regular rotation (every 3,000 miles) will also help the tires do their job.


(3)   Fluids are the lifeblood of your car.  There are 8 major fluids to check or replace (can you name them?).  For the most part, all petroleum based fluids are hydroscopic.  (They naturally absorb water from the air).  This means that even if you don’t drive a great deal, the fluid still gets contaminated just by sitting around.


(4)   Fluids, fluids everywhere!  Windshield washer fluid is water based, but a cheap brand with too much water can freeze in the washer tubes and nozzles.  A good deicing type is crucial for safety and convenience.  The recommended antifreeze/coolant for each make of vehicle has become complicated.  You may have yellow, green, pink or even brown antifreeze in your car and mixing in the wrong kind can be extremely costly, even dangerous.  Refer to your owner’s manual or have a competent technician at a reputable repair shop check the type, freeze point and cleanliness of your antifreeze/coolant.  The other fluids, you wise car care connoisseurs knew, were:  engine oil, transmission fluid, power steering fluid, brake fluid, differential oil and fuel.  They all need attention.  Just because you got by for years without even a thought to these issues, just remember the favorite mantra of every repair shop, “Pay me now or pay me later”.


(5)   Check those brakes!  If you think keeping the car moving through the snow and slush is tough, stopping safely in that mess is even harder.  Have your brakes checked by a competent technician.  Uneven braking is a major cause of accidents every winter.  Just because they stop well on dry, warm roads – that doesn’t mean they will on frozen or slushy roads.  If your antilock or traction control light is on it means that safety feature is not working.  Have it corrected!


(6)   Wiper blades are almost a no-brainer.  Here again, they are not all created equal.  If you vehicle spends most of its life unsheltered, winter blades are a good defense against ice and snow freezing up on them.  A frozen wiper blade is as effective as strapping a trout to the wiper arm!  The new one piece design blades are better than the old school style, as far as freezing up.


(7)   Fuel your battle machine with the good stuff.  We are all happy to watch the fuel prices drop and not so happy when they rise.  However, be cautious when you buy at “cheap Joe’s”.  The two cents a gallon cheaper price may be because they are not adding the full recommended amount of antifreeze to their tanks.  Gas line antifreeze additive is cheap insurance.  A bottle for each tankful will keep the fuel flowing in the coldest temperatures.  Be sure to buy the type that is safe for your engine, (carbureted or fuel injection).  The wrong one could damage your fuel system.


(8)   Keep your mean machine clean!  Get yourself a good snow brush and scraper.  Come on … you know you always wanted to splurge on that mega brush you saw at Sears.  Buy it and use it.  We are all in a hurry, but a car that has 6” of snow piled on it and driving at 35 mph can be dangerous to you and other drivers.


(9)   Like a good Boy Scout or Girl Scout … be prepared!  Keep the tank full, keep a car charger for your cell phone, a blanket, extra clothes, a flashlight with fresh batteries, a small shovel and a bag of gravel in the trunk.  Jumper cables and a 30’ tow strap are also helpful if you’re stuck.  And … oh yes – be sure you know how to use them.


(10) Pay Attention!  Yours or someone else’s life may depend on it!  Plan your trips to      minimize your time on the road, try not to venture out in extreme conditions, keep a safe distance between cars and SLOWING DOWN are all good strategies to returning home safely!  Listen to weather forecasts and learn as much as possible about conditions in your driving area.



      The importance of having your vehicle winterized cannot be overstated!  Small issues such as a leaking hose, weak antifreeze or tire condition could be the difference between safely navigating this winter or an accident.  For many people, knowing what to look for is difficult.  This is why I would recommend bringing your vehicle in for a specific winter safety checkup.  An experienced, honest repair center can find potential problems before they become serious issues.  If you’re not sure about where you’re bringing your vehicle,  ask your friends and neighbors for a shop that has a reputation for being thorough.  A proper winter safety checkup/service is key to making it through a tough winter.  Be sure to ask questions and get thorough answers to any of your concerns.  Remember … an educated winter warrior is someone who can laugh in the face of old man winter and emerge this spring with vehicle, wallet, health and sanity intact.  Have a happy and safe winter/holiday driving season from your friends at A and J Auto Maintenance Center.