Thursday, October 5, 2017

Got Snow?  Prepare Your Car and Follow These Recommendations and You Can Give Winter A Raspberry!

Even those that love winter would rather race down a hill in a toboggan rather than careen off the road and into the ditch when the snow starts piling up. If you take the time to ready your vehicle for the upcoming snow season, you will not cringe when you hear the snow plow go by while you lay cuddled under the warm blankets.

Keep your vehicle regularly maintained and not only will you be safer behind the wheel, you will be doing the environment a favour as well.  

These recommendations will insure you are ready for winter and will save you money.  Finish them as soon as possible and you can enjoy the winter wonderland while others scramble through the snow to get what they need for their emergency kit and wait in line to get their tires changed.

Slow Down!  If you drive 100 km/hr (60 miles/hr) instead of 115 km/hr (70 miles/hr), you will lower your fuel consumption by as much as 12%.  If you do a lot of city driving and you know you will have a long wait, such as at a train crossing, turn off your engine.  Idling for more than a couple of minutes burns unnecessary fuel.

Keep your windows up.  When you drive with the windows rolled down, you create an aerodynamic drag that will increase your fuel consumption by at least 10%.  HINT!  Driving with your windows down and air conditioning on can burn as much as 15% more fuel.

You can use up to 4% more fuel if your tire pressures are uneven.  Make it a habit to make sure your tire pressures are equal on a regular basis.  HINT!  Check it whenever you change your oil or every 5000 KMs (3000 miles).
Do not neglect the regular vehicle maintenance schedule in your owner's manual.  You will lose upwards of 4% in fuel economy if you ignore those regular checkups.

Fill your gas tank on cooler mornings.  Fuel pumps are calculated by volume.  Gas is denser when it is cold.  It is worth putting on that pair of gloves to get the most gas for your money.  HINT: During the cold winter months, do not let your gas gauge go below one half of a tank.  You will be thankful for the fuel if you become stranded in a storm.

Installing an electric block heater will make your vehicle start easier as the engine will already be warm.  Inside, the temperature will rise quickly giving you a more comfortable ride.

Book an appointment with your mechanic.  Ask if they have a winter preparation package as most service stations do.  On this visit is, make sure all of your vehicle's components are in good condition.  Also, you should insure all fluids are topped off and the washer fluid container is full.  HINT: Never fill your windshield washer container with water.  It will freeze when the temperature drops below 0 degrees Celsius (32 Fahrenheit).

 Always keep a vehicle maintenance record.  This can be as simple as having a pad of paper in the glove box to document service calls.

When your vehicle's underside gets coated in salt, on a nice day, put a sprinkler on the hardest spray setting and turn it on under the vehicle, moving it around to cover the entire area. You will prevent salt from corroding things like your exhaust pipe.

Plan your route so you do not have to backtrack to stores when you have a bunch of errands to run.  You will save time and fuel.  HINT:  Whenever you take a shorter route, putting fewer kilometres on your odometer is an added bonus.

If you get stranded, check to be sure your exhaust pipe is clear so you can turn on your vehicle for about 10 minutes every half hour to keep warm.  HINT: Stay with your car whenever possible.  Only leave if you know where you are and that you can make it to safety. A cold car is much better shelter than a freezing snow bank.

Never leave home without your cell phone and make sure it is fully charged.  HINT: A car charger is a great investment.

Make it a habit to let someone know your planned route and your estimated arrival time when travelling longer distances or if poor weather is forecast.  If you have an issue, anyone looking for you will know where to start.  Always check for weather updates just prior to your departure and be prepared to delay your trip. Anything less than a last opportunity to pick up a 10 million dollar check is not worth your safety and, even then, well, could you not just live with your current bank balance and eat baloney for a while?

 Encountering the 'Bridge Freezes Before Road' sign should make you wake up and pay attention.  Cold air gathering under a bridge or overpass will cool the temperature of the road faster which may cause black ice to form.  Decrease your speed and proceed with caution.  HINT: If you hit black ice, try to steer the vehicle straight and let the antilock brakes do their job.  You will feel the brake pedal pulsating under your foot.  Resist the urge to pump the brake, just continue to apply steady pressure until you can regain control of the vehicle.

Make sure you know the jargon terms relating to the weather and what they mean.  Freezing Rain: Rain freezes as it hits the road creating a coat of ice on roadways.  Sleet:  Rain becomes ice pellets which land on the road making it slippery.  Wind Chill:  What the temperature 'feels like' outside rather than what the thermometer reads.   Winter Weather Advisory: Poor weather is expected and you should take precautions.  Winter Storm Watch:  A winter storm is likely in your area.  You should be ready.  Winter Storm Warning: A winter storm is imminent.  Be sure your emergency supplies are well stocked.  Blizzard Warning:  High winds are expected to produce blowing snow that will considerably reduce visibility.  You should not be driving.  Frost/Freeze Warning: Temperatures that are below freezing are expected.  Flash Freeze:  Temperatures above zero degrees Celsius are expected to drop rapidly to below zero degrees Celsius.  Any water on the road will freeze, sometimes in a matter of minutes.  Driving is not advisable.

If you do not have a road side assistance program, you may want to consider purchasing a membership with AAA (American Automobile Association) or a similar membership in your area.  Decent coverage is available for just over $100 a year.  They offer many beneficial services that include towing, changing a flat tire, paying for a locksmith when you lock your keys in your vehicle and travel insurance. You will also enjoy perks at a selection of businesses that may include free upgrades to hotel rooms, discounts at restaurant chains or value added services when you present your membership card.

When you wake up to snow covering your vehicle, take the time to clear it off completely.  Snow left on your car can blow off, possibly blinding the driver behind you and you can get a fine from the police.  Also, make sure all of you exterior mirrors are clear of ice and snow and give your headlights and taillights a wipe with a damp cloth before heading out.

Insure your head is positioned correctly when you are in the driver's seat.  A head rest should reach, at least, as high as the top of your ears.  This will give you maximum protection from whiplash in the case of a rear end collision. 

Have your car washed and a coat of wax applied before the temperature drops below 12 degrees Celsius (53 Fahrenheit).  Waxing will help protect against salt damage and snow will fall off easier.

 Purchase a set of water resistant vinyl or rubber car mats.  They will protect the carpeted mats that came with your vehicle and make clean up a breeze. After all, do you not have better things to do on a Saturday morning than shampooing your car mats in the garage?

 Invest in a set of good winter tires.  Even if you have what are characterized as 'all season' tires, they will never give you the performance a winter tire can provide so do not be fooled by overzealous sales pitches .  Also, there is a trend toward making the use of winter tires law.  HINT: Put your winter tires on by October 1st and avoid the long wait that will happen after the first snow fall.

Having a multi tool in your vehicle that can break a window and cut a seatbelt could prove to be a lifesaver.  You can purchase a dual model for about $15 (US dollars).

Keep some lock de-icer at home and at your place of work.  Locks can freeze in cold weather.  De-icer works, but only if it is not in your glove box when you need it.  No de-icer?  A hair dryer will do the job as long as you have some place to plug it in.  HINT:  Never try to force you key when trying to unlock a frozen door.  They break a lot easier than you would think.

Use a cover if you have to park on the street to protect your vehicle from excessive salt.  Even if you park in a driveway, a vehicle cover will keep the snow off thus saving you cleaning time and preserving your paint job.   HINT:  If you purchase a bright colour and become stranded, put the cover on the car so you can readily be seen.  The cover will act as an insulator too, helping to keep the heat in the vehicle and guarding against drafts.

If you find yourself stuck in snow without a shovel, a hubcap is a good substitution.

Leave emergency contact information in your glove compartment.  In the unfortunate case of an accident, police will check there for any available information they can use to reach a relative or friend.  Please do not leave the contact information of someone you frequently travel with. Also, put a contact on your cell phone under the heading 'ICO' (In case of emergency).

If you are stranded in your vehicle on the side of the road,  put a flare about 15 feet (4 1/2 Meters) behind your car.  Many drivers have the bad habit of drifting into the shoulder.  A flare is guaranteed to get their attention and is also a good tool to alert other drivers that you require assistance. 

Booster cables are only good to have if you know how to use them.  Clamp one red booster cable to the booster vehicle's positive post.  Clamp one red booster cable to the stalled vehicle's positive post.  Clamp the black booster cable to the booster vehicle's negative post.  Clamp the black booster cable to any bare metal surface under the hood of the stalled vehicle.  Start the booster vehicle and let it idle for a few minutes.  After a few minutes, start the stalled vehicle and let it idle for a few minutes.  Disconnect the black booster cable from the formerly stalled vehicle.  Disconnect the black booster from the booster car.  Disconnect the red booster cable from the booster car.  Disconnect the red booster cable from the formerly stalled vehicle.  Drive, or at least run, the once stalled car for approximately one half hour in order for the battery to get sufficiently recharged. PLEASE NOTE:  Occasionally you will see blue and black booster cables.  Black is always the negative cable, any other colour used is a positive cable.

Learn how to change your vehicle's windshield wipers and keep a spare pair in your vehicle.  If a wiper breaks during travel and you do not have a spare to install, or if you do not know how to install the blade, you are stuck where you are until help arrives.

When the supplies on this list are kept in every vehicle you use, you will be capable to handle most emergencies.  Emergency supplies include (but are not limited to) the following:  Properly inflated spare tire that has been checked for leaks, wrench and jack that are specific to the vehicle, collapsible shovel, battery booster cables,  bag of non clumping kitty litter (to be used for traction), general tool kit, flashlight with extra batteries (put the batteries backwards in the flashlight to guard against it being accidently turned on), battery powered lantern to use when reading (again, reverse the batteries), reflective 'help' sign you can put in your back window, compass, first aid kit, feminine products,  jug of windshield cleaner (properly mixed), ice scraper, snow brush (one with a handle that can be extended to reach over the roof of your vehicle is a good choice), non-perishable high energy foods (dried fruit, cashews or other nuts, protein bars, cookies),  4 litres of water for every available seat, flares, extra warm clothing (mittens, gloves, scarves, hats and a good pair of snow boots), transistor radio, ABC fire extinguisher, plastic bags (for sanitary purposes), three day supply of all prescription medications for everyone in your home, a few magazines and books (boredom will quickly set in if you are stranded),  a small amount of cash (well hidden) and a disposable cell phone (check occasionally to see if it needs charging). This may seem like an excessive exercise but ask anyone who has been stranded without proper preparations which emergency item they wish had been available to them and you can guarantee it is on the above list. If you take care when packing, minimal space will be needed. Utilize the spaces around the spare tire and fill the snow boots with supplies. In addition to keeping you hydrated, the water will provide extra weight useful for traction purposes.

All of the preceding recommendations are important.  It would prove difficult to prioritize one over another as they all serve valuable purposes.

If you do have to choose only some, due to budget or other constraints, adopt the elements that deal with safety first.

When you make safe driving a priority, you help make sure others, including yourself, always reach their destinations.

If you are going to be a statistic, you should endeavour to be a positive one.

Pauline Milner

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