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I'ts Cold Out There! 10 Things to Check on Your Car Before a Winter Road Trip

by bschneider 3. January 2012 10:19


Now that the holidays are over more and more of us who live in warmer climes are turning our attention to that long awaited snow trip. For residents of the Southwest the thought of winter proofing our cars is usually the last thing on our minds. After all, here where I live in Los Angeles, it hardly gets below freezing all winter. But just a few hours north the thermometer can drop in a hurry as one begins to climb into the Sierra Nevada. So before you head of into the great white north, it would be a good idea to do the following:

1. Check your tires' tread depth: It can get slick up in the mountains or in any environment where it rains then freezes. If you're not used to driving under those conditions it's imperative that you give yourself as much as an advantage as possible. It's not good enough to just eyeball your treads. Consumer Reports recommends that consumers place a quarter in the tread to measure the depth. Replacement is necessary under a depth of 4/32. So when you place the quarter in the tread, do so with president Washington's head upside down. If our first president's head is still at least partially visible, you're good to go.

2. Check the condition of all the belts on the car:  A broken belt at the 6,000 foot level can be a lot more inconvenient then it would be a mile or so from  home, so it's important to make sure each belt is in good shape. That means looking for cracks or obvious signs of wear. Replacing a belt on the road will cost you a lot more than in town, not to mention the extra time you'll spend looking for one instead of on the slopes.

3. Check your brake lights:  This seems like such a simple thing but the truth is most of us just assume they're always working. The fact is, that just is not the case. And the guy driving behind you is not necessarily going drive up to the side of your car to let you know. Place a brick on the brake then walk back and check that both lights are illuminated. Safe, stopping distances decrease rapidly in the snow and lacking brake lights make you, literally, a sitting target.

4. Check your fluids: With your engine off, check the power steering fluid, the brake fluid, coolant, windshield wiper fluid and also the engine oil. Your owner's manual will  indicate how to check the transmission and your car's other specific fluids. Make sure you pay attention to the recommended oil viscosity for cold weather. Oil gets thicker as it gets colder. If it's too thick it won't lubricate your engine properly.

5. Check your brakes: This is one of the things most of us are not going to want to do because it involves jacking up your car and removing the wheel. Better safe than sorry; if you haven't had your brakes professionally checked in the last 10,000 miles get into a shop for a look see.

6. Chains: Yes, this is sort of a no brainer. But you 'd be surprised to know how many of us don't remember this simple precaution. Make sure you have put the chains on before so you know how to do it. Figuring out how to get a set of new chains on at 10:00 PM in a snow storm is no fun at all.

7. Check and replace your wiper blades. If it hasn't rained in a while chances are you'll need to address this. It an easy thing to remedy.

8. Make sure to check the battery. If your battery is over three years old, have a certified technician test its ability to hold a charge. If it's a newer one, just check that the posts aren't corroded and it has enough water. It might  be a good idea to have some jumper cables with you as well. (to help out the other guy who forgot to check HIS battery!)

9. Four wheel drive owners: Most of us with off road vehicles don't really use the system all that often. Make sure it's working properly before showing up all those 4x2 owners.

10.  Prepare an emergency kit. No matter how careful we are to prepare, accidents can happen. It would be a very good idea to equip your car with flares, stopping blocks, abrasive material like salt (in case you get stuck in the snow) and a first aid kit.

If you take the time to follow these simple things you'll go a long way towards ensuring a safe and happy mountain adventure for you and your family.  A sure bet to make sure you get all the above done right is to take your car into a reputable auto service company, preferably one Demand Advantage Partners with! Have fun out there!




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